Thursday, November 3, 2016

Keeping it "Cool!"

Today's featured movie is a peculiarity in that it made its debut at the tail end of a time when teeny-bop, surf 'n sand movies were the rage, and contains a cast of that ilk, yet keeps them on dry land and off of the beach, instead focusing on the music industry (well, let's make that a world inspired by the music industry!) It's an oddball, sometimes garish, bit of cobbled-together fluff that precedes others in a similar vein such as The Phynx (1970) and The Apple (1980) and also seems to have taken one of its cues from The Flintstones, of all things! The Cool Ones is definitely obscure, but has a devoted cache of fans who feel the need to cool off with it any chance they get! As a lover of most things bad, it naturally caught my eye (and ear!) as well.

Debbie Watson portrays a pretty, young dancer on a hit TV series called "Whiz Bam," based quite clearly on groovy mid-'60s music and dance-a-thon shows such as Shindig! and Hullabaloo. She's aching to show off her singing chops to the show's producer, music industry mogul Phil Harris, but he has little to no interest.

He and his right-hand man George Furth keep offering Watson empty promises and putting her off every time she thinks they'll finally let her perform vocally on the show instead of shimmying around on the floor or in a cage.
The show itself is a delightfully cornball conglom- eration of frenetic dancers hopping and flailing about in brightly colored costumes (sadly, the real shows Shindig! and Hullabaloo were done in the days of black & white television!) Note a young Teri Garr on the left in this shot!
One day while on the air she has literally reached her limit and while a guest vocalist (played by Glen Campbell!) is attempting to deliver his latest hit, she grabs the microphone and begins loudly bellowing her own rendition of the song! He keeps trying to evade her, but she won't give up!

The cameras also try to avoid showing her, but she's in such a tizzy that no matter where they aim them, she somehow winds up in the frame, sending her spasmodic meltdown out along the airwaves to all the teen viewers everywhere.

After this demon- stration, she is fired by Harris, who is furious with her, but she vows that she'll be back; that one day he'll beg for her to appear on Whiz Bam as a guest star. She is comforted by the show's costume mistress, Mrs. Miller. Now here the movie instantly launches into lulu-land.

Mrs. Miller (a bit more on her later) is playing someone named Mrs. Miller, but it's not really "her." It's a worker bee on a television show rather than the housewife and charity volunteer that Miller had been in real life. Sometimes it seems as if there was a decent character actress brewing under the surface of this legendarily awful songstress. Other times, she seems to be fitfully performing in her own realm, unaware of anyone around her (as in this shot!)
After her dismissal, Watson moseys around town, on rather deserted L.A. streets (!) while the song "This Town" plays. The entire number is heard on the soundtrack as she heads hither and thither, wandering all over the place until finally arriving home.

Now is as good a time as any to note that this role was intended for Nancy Sinatra. She had already recorded some of the songs for the film and "This Town" is one of them, so it is she that we hear singing here and not Watson! Interestingly, when Sinatra performed the number on a TV special, the set-up (of her walking through deserted spaces with only mannequins as company) was quite similar to this! And the costume not so far off, either.

The rest of the Whiz Bam dancers are headed off on a weekend jaunt to Palm Springs that they've been planning and even though Watson tries to beg off, they talk her into coming along anyway. (Incidentally, while the dancers on Whiz Bam are depicted as multi-racial, the Black and Asian ones are not part of this Palm Springs weekend!)

Meanwhile, one-time heartthrob Gil Peterson has slipped off his pedestal of teen stardom into near oblivion after an ill-advised foray into the singing of standards. He has no desire to try to make it in the music business any more, but he also has to make ends meet somehow.

A kindly Palm Springs nightclub owner (Robert Coote), in an effort to extend his performing career a tad longer, hires him to sing his type of music the way he wants to (which turns out to be standby classics like "Birth of the Blues" and "Secret Love" done in a grooverifically hideous mod style!)

Peterson, who is a dead ringer for Malibu Ken, has hair that mostly defies movement of any kind and wears deliciously snug pants at practically any opportunity. Look at the fun shirt and, especially, belt he has on in his first scene.

(Peterson is also the primary reason we ever watched this movie and one of the key attractions for returning to it more than once! All of my young adult life, I wanted to be Malibu Ken. Didn't happen... LOL!)

Anyhow, as the dancers arrive at their destination, they go tearing into the nightclub where Peterson is performing. Naturally, Watson is instantly smitten with the humpy, tan, blond god (even though he, like Watson, often prefers to holler his songs instead of sing them in an appealing fashion... or maybe it's a case of "birds of a feather" flocking together!)

Unfor- tunately, Watson has attracted the unwanted attention of the bar's resident scumball, Rex Holman. Holman, a figure in countless western movies and TV shows, is described as some dirty old man although he was but thirty-two at the time! Peterson was only three MONTHS his junior in real life. (He also sports even more revealing pants than Peterson does in the movie.)

A brawl ensues with Peterson having to step in and hand Holman his ass. No, they aren't dancing together in this still photo from the scene!
Watson, ever grateful to Peterson for his chivalry, invites him back to the motor lodge where the gang is all hanging out in and around the pool. You can get another nice look at the aforementioned Garr here on the far right.

Coote has decided to let Watson sing at his nightclub along with Peterson. Peterson is all about helping Watson, but he doesn't want to pursue a career of his own now that he's finally almost recovered from being burned the first time. While sunbathing the next day at his own motel, the radio begins to play one of the songs that caused his career demise and he jumps into the pool out of frustration.

He emerges to find Watson begging him to help her repeat the success she had on the air. She was so caught up in her own world of histrionics that she can't even remember exactly what it was she did to make everyone stand up and take notice (and this being long before VCRs, she can't take a look at it herself, either!) She wants Peterson to teach her what he saw her do on Whiz Bam.

The two playfully flirt at the pool and in his motel room, with him blessedly clad in only a small swimsuit. (Oddly, though, he looks less tan and less blond during this sequence than at any other point in the movie!)

By now, Watson's not so little meltdown on Whiz Bam has become something of a sensation. Somehow her writhing and screaming into a microphone, darting around the stage and causing total chaos, has resulted in a call for more of the same by fans of the show. Harris is being besieged by calls and letters to provide more of Watson.

He consults a computer for the answer to his quagmire (huge computers nearly always coming into play in these wacky late-60s movies) and on the wall is a portrait of none other than our beloved King Sisters! (One of the King sons was, by the way, an early producer of Mrs. Miller records.)

Now we get goofy again. Peterson, Watson and their dancer friends ascend a gondola to the tippy top of a mountain, singing all the way about "getting high!" The setting only very slightly helps to defray the intent of the lyics (written, as is most of the original music in this movie, by Lee Hazlewood.)
It's really quite impressive that this number seems to have been filmed entirely on location, including INSIDE the cramped gondola, as the car heads up and up the mountainside. Once atop, the (Toni Basil) choreography hits full steam and the dancers do a wild routine all over the patio of the lodge in their colorful, mod get-ups.
Watson's crazed, anxiety-fueled perfor- mance on TV has now been dubbed "The Tantrum!" (Much like Fred Flintstone's "The Frantic," which became a phenomenon when he dropped a bowling ball on his foot and began hopping around in agony!) Coote wants Watson and Peterson to perform the gyration together in his nightclub.

Sensing a potential break out duo on his hands, Coote sends for his brother (!), outre record producer Roddy McDowall (in a charac- terization that was allegedly based upon Phil Spector - aren't they all?!) McDowall, though top-billed in the movie, doesn't appear at all until more than 30 minutes into it.

He's way, way out there with purple clothing, a purple car and an entourage of fawning yes-folks including Nita Talbot (who wears only shades of black and white) and paunchy Richard Begg.

Talbot fulfills the fantasy of most of the viewing audience when she greets old friend Peterson with a big hug and a deep, clenching grab of his bubble butt! Coote looks pleased as well to be reunited with his younger (ya think?!) brother.
McDowall is filled with all sorts of hangups and affectations. In one scene, having just received some shocking news before entering his hotel, he begins to disrobe right in the lobby, with various people removing and collecting his clothes until he's down to a pair of vibrant purple swim trunks!

He decides to go to the nightclub and witness Watson and Peterson in action for himself. As the two burgeoning stars dance "The Tantrum!" the nightclub erupts into an ecstatic frenzy.

The young singing sensations come out onto the floor of the club doing a spasmodic dance accented with various shakes and pronounced pauses, to the delight of everyone. (A delight for the viewers of The Cool Ones is getting to watch Peterson's showroom-level ass bounce and jut around in a pair of body-hugging blue pants!)

Even though Peterson wants Watson to enjoy success as a teen star and has helped her this far, he still wants no part of performing in the music industry himself apart from this low-level nightclub work. Unfortunately, McDowall wants to sell them as a pair, not just Watson alone. After some hemming and hawing, Peterson decides to jump off the cliff and join Watson back in L.A. and take part in what will surely be a hard sell promotion of these two newly hot stars.

As McDowall heads to his main offices, he is besieged by all sorts of wannabee singers who keep popping up out of nowhere, trying to land a contract with him. One (of T.J and the Fourmations) is this diminutive little sprout who warbles a song called "Hey Hey Ronnie." The ditty is infectious at the same time it's irritating! LOL  And thanks to the girl's sinus-y voice, I thought for the longest time that she was singing "Hey Hey Roddy" to McDowall!!!
But the hallways of the place are simply crawling with other musicians and singers wanting their shot. McDowall also has a small army of buxom, scantily-clad secretaries who rise to greet him upon arrival. (One of them, the blonde, is Angelique Pettyjohn, who was a memorable guest on Star Trek.) Even when he enters his office, the siege isn't over. He opens a closet to find three more performers (The Bantams), even more diminutive than the earlier act!
Finally free of all this, he ascends to his huge, purple, velvet throne and sets about his game plan to make Watson and Peterson stars. An omnipresent bust of Napoleon marks the decor of his office. He determines that Watson needs to get Peterson to fall in love with her so that he'll stay with the act and not upset their marketable chemistry. Since she's already nuts about the guy, it hardly seems like an assignment, though she balks at McDowall's interference.

Our young singers next perform at a larger venue (the Whiskey a Go-Go) with a banner heralding "The Tantrum!" This time, Nancy Sinatra's distinctive vocals are emanating from Watson's mouth as she "sings!" This bizarre decision gives an uneven - to say the least - quality to Watson's vocals as we never know who is going to be heard at a given time! At this performance, Watson wears a tiger-print skirt, which may or may not be a subtle nod to her predecessor Fred Flintstone!

Time for another segue into looneyville. Peterson and Watson visit a the Spanish-themed Olvera Street shopping center where they profess their affection for one another before launching into a spirited love duet. They sing to each other while donning various accoutrements such as sombreros, beads and vests.
At one point, Peterson puts bull horns against his head and dives towards Watson who's brandishing a blanket! They end at a wishing well, gazing lovingly at each other as a chorus of Latino townspeople sing (lipsynch!) in background support.

Once back at McDowall's office, he mistakes all their garb as signifying that they've run off to Tijuana and eloped! He lays into them, barking at Watson that HE wanted to be the one to decide what happens between them. Peterson seems mystified by this, but the beans aren't completely spilled yet.

Now our duo is set to perform at the Valley Music Theatre before a packed house. As they croon a gooey love ballad to one another, little shots of them from previously in the movie are seen in sequence. Afterwards, another misunderstanding leads McDowall to screech his schemes out loud to Watson and Peterson overhears, feeling that she has completely used him.

He exits the venue in a huff and this time we really get an eye-opening glance at those trousers of his in the full light of day! He sullenly walks down the pathway from the theatre until the crowd realizes who he is and chases him like a pack of rabid dogs! Watson chases after him, too, catching up to him and hopping on a nearby bus with him.

Once seated in the back, the young lovers hash it all out and Peterson asks Watson to marry him. She wants to, but not at the expense of her on-the-cusp career. With this, he angrily departs the bus, leaving her alone with her (glycerin) tears.

McDowall & Co. have also been ravaged by the crowd and head back to the office in tatters. In a number called "Where Did I Go Wrong?," they take turns showing off which of them has the least pleasant singing voice! Regardless of his success in Camelot on Broadway, McDowall was no Jack Jones and the others are every bit as rough. When Talbot slinks onto McDowall's lap at one point, Begg plops himself onto Coote's!

McDowall is desperate to retain Peterson for his label and instructs Talbot to turn on the charm and win him over to the fold again. Talbot (in the only instance in which she wears a color) has Peterson over to her apartment, where she's clad only in a towel (or two.) Her opening the door to find "Ken" in the frame reminds me of those long ago days playing the board game Mystery Date with my babysitter!

While she slinks off to put something else on, Peterson stares out her high-rise window, taking his turn at singing "This Town."

After Talbot reenters, she begins to ply him with champagne and he begins to respond to her female charms. Again, she is getting to do (almost) everything that the viewing audience would like to if they could! Only a "1" (or a "10" - depending on one's sex!) on the sexuality continuum could resist ravaging this slab o'beefcake if they had the opportunity.
Peterson is back on board, but reluctantly. There is a terse meeting at McDowall's office and it seems as if the partnership between he and Watson is going to be strictly business from now on. What's more, they've been invited by Harris to appear on Whiz Bam! The two perform at Whiskey a Go-Go again, but this time there's an edge to their rapport. She finally refuses to sing at all and Peterson takes the stage alone, again in a fun pair of pants!
Watson and McDowall have it out over their tenuous arrange- ment. She's right on the verge of finally getting to guest star on Whiz Bam, her ultimate goal, and yet now seems to have lost the love of her tan, blond god. McDowall attempts to reunite the two through a race car event with Peterson rigged to win and Watson to present the prize, but it fizzles.

The day of the Whiz Bam perfor- mance, Peterson is decked out all in black with a fun cow-print vest with all the hangers on salivating over what is sure to be a success in ratings, popularity and record sales.

There's a snag, however. Watson is nowhere to be found! A panicked McDowall wants Peterson to sing without her, but he refuses. Suddenly, he's realized that her absence is a sign that she's willing to give up everything for him. All seems lost for McDowall until he gets the inspiration (how, no one knows) to request that Mrs. Miller go out and entertain the restless, dead-eyed crowd!
In one of many insane moments of this motion picture, Miller toddles out on stage (still wearing her sewing smock!) and asks the conductor in the most hilariously uncharismatic way imaginable if he knows "It's Magic" in B-flat. Then follows one of her customarily wretched performances. If you've ever seen a movie, you probably can tell what happens next for Peterson and Watson.

The first time I ever saw The Cool Ones, I was on a treadmill at the YMCA and thought perhaps I had been overdoing it! Ha ha! (I only decided to watch it because I thought incorrectly that Grant Williams was the star of it.) The second time I saw it, I really did not like it very much at all, thinking it too disjointed and inane for its own good. The third time I began to appreciate the zany costumes, art direction, choreography and musical arrangements, which only could have come from the 1960s. Like many other forms of fungus, it grew on me!

Some of the behind the scenes names on this are rather startling. The executive producer was none other than the rotund William Conrad, famous for, among other things, his role as chubby private eye Cannon. And the movie was directed by Gene Nelson, a noted 1950s dancer-performer (Will Parker in Oklahoma!, 1955) who found a niche as a director in his later years. Other directing credits include the Elvis Presley movies Kissin' Cousins (1964) and Harum Scarum (1965), though The Cool Ones would be his last feature. He thereafter directed solely for television.

At the time of this film, McDowall was enjoying a busy adult career after having worked as an acclaimed child actor. The year before, he'd given a truly out-there performance in Lord Love a Duck (1966) and there is a somewhat similar vibe from him here. He would proceed to supporting parts in big-screen blockbusters such as Planet of the Apes (1968) and The Poseidon Adventure (1972) while balancing those with plenty of lesser-known oddities. A friend to nearly everyone and sought after right up until his death in 1998 from lung cancer at age seventy, he had a long, busy career.

Watson's career was quite the opposite. A community theatre performer who tried out on Ted Mack and the Original Amateur Hour, she proceeded to play the title characters in mid-'60s sitcoms Karen and Tammy before winning roles in movies such as this one and Munster, Go Home! (1966.) (Gene Nelson had directed her in one Tammy episode.) Tammy and the Millionaire (1967) was but a movie forged out of several of her TV installments sewn together. Then, after a handful of performances on shows such as The Virginian and Love, American Style, she retired to be a wife to her record producer husband and mother to their son. Now sixty-seven, she was never bit by the performing bug again after 1971.
Mississippi born Peterson's career was similarly brief. A college football player-turned actor, he worked on several TV shows of the mid-'60s like Combat!, Run for Your Life and The F.B.I. before landing The Cool Ones. Further film roles were rare, though. (He has a bit part in Valley of the Dolls as one of Patty Duke's movie costars! This was given to him in consolation for having lost out of the role of Tony Polar.)
By the mid-'70s, Peterson's career had petered out. It's surprising because he certainly had great looks and a great physique. Maybe if there had been no Gary Conway, he'd have gone further? He did have an album and at least one single released as a singer (and there is no truth to the rumor that the woman on the record sleeve is him in drag! Ha!)  He is now eighty years of age and has been out of the acting business for many years, but sang often as part of The Four Freshman association.

Harris was a drummer, bandleader and comic actor from the 1920s on, eventually landing in the movies and enjoying success on Jack Benny's radio program. Later, he and wife Alice Faye headlined a beloved radio show of their own. Besides many TV appearance, he popped up in movies like The High and the Mighty (1954), Anything Goes (1956) and The Patsy (1964), with Jerry Lewis. Harris lived until 1995 when a heart attack claimed him at age ninety-one. His sidekick Furth, by the way, is a member of the Disaster Movie Club by virtue of his appearance in Airport '77 (1977.)

Coote had been working in movies since the dawn of the 1930s and appeared in many notable ones from Gunga Din (1939) to Forever Amber (1947) to Othello (1951.) He was also a successful Broadway actor with featured roles in My Fair Lady and Camelot, though a prickly relationship with Lady's Rex Harrison likely prevented him from recreating his role in the 1964 film (where Wilfred Hyde-White took over the part.) Coote worked on television up until 1981, passing away in his sleep at age seventy-three in 1982.

Talbot started her screen career around 1950 with bit parts in many movies. Later, she segued into television where she was a frequent guest star on many shows, several offering recurring parts such as Man Against Crime, The Thin Man, Bourbon Street Beat and Hogan's Heroes. Having led a very busy life as a comedic character actress, she retired in the mid-1990s. Miss Talbot is still with us today at age eighty-six.

Mrs. Miller, a church choir singer from Kansas who who later wed and moved to California, began to cut records of gospel and kid songs as a hobby. When a canny arranger convinced her to record "Downtown" with her atrociously off-kilter, warbling sound and it was picked up by a record label, she became an overnight sensation, showing up on many TV variety shows and (unintentionally) putting audiences in stitches with her unique vocalizations. (Think somewhere in-between Florence Foster Jenkins and William Hung of "She Bang!" fame.)

Her earnest, homespun personality paired with groan-inducing song stylings made her a temporary hit with mid-to-late-'60s audiences, but once the novelty wore off, her career slid into decline. Always and ever a music lover herself, she continued to support various projects and causes, but hung up her own mic for good around 1973. Miller lived until 1997 when she died of natural causes at age eighty-nine.

I think one has to be in the right mood for The Cool Ones. If expectations of overall quality are kept low, but a person is seeking the sort of colorful, zany, corny, distinctive confections that marked the 1960s, it's tough to go wrong with this. You may find yourself smiling from ear-to-ear even as you're shaking your head in disbelief at what is happening before you. But, no matter what, there's the glory of glorious Gil Peterson to help smooth over the rough spots!


Scooter said...

I immediately went to YouTube to search out Mrs Miller singing Downtown. Incredible! She has no sense of rhythm or timing. An absolutely amazing find. Thanks so much for sharing. After a pretty sh!tty week this is just what I need going into the weekend!

Gingerguy said...

Whiz Bam! you knocked me out with this one Poseidon. This is my kind of movie. I love all those 60's dance shows and recently bought an instructional guidebook on ebay put out by Hullabaloo. I actually got a nutcase friend of mine to come over and try some out with me (and yes we are grown men in our early 50's). I am surprised this movie got away with such a blatant copy of Shindig and Hullabaloo, even the block letters are exactly the same, and Teri Garr was a dancer on one of them, I think Shindig. There was also a show called "Hootenanny" for folkies. Dreary! George Furth always showed up as a disapproving grown-up in movies and on tv. Later on he wrote "Company" with Stephen Sondheim which I found surprising. So this is the movie that Mrs Miller was in! I have amazed many people once they hear her sing, that I have her cds and listen to them at home. They are great for housework. I had seen the clips of her but didn't know this movie at all. Bizarrely, last night I went to a talk with the writer James Lapine. He wrote a musical play about Mrs Miller a few years ago and it's being staged again soon in D.C. My question for him was how he chooses subject matter as "Mrs Miller" and "Sunday In The Park With George" seem like two different planets to me. I totally know the song "This Town" and love it. It's from the tv special "Movin'with Nancy" where she sings it and proudly sports Dunkin' Donuts colors. Fascinating to find out how she intertwined with this movie and it's soundtrack. Gil Peterson does look like Malibu Ken. I recently visited Malibu and sadly did not see Ken or Barbie, only Suzanne Somers. BTW Rex Holman much more my type, dirty old man indeed. The King Sisters photo left me speechless, good eye there. I will have to see this flick and maybe get the soundtrack since it's Lee Hazelwood. He did most of Nancy Sinatra's hits and a lot of duets with her that are like psychedelic western movie themes. There is a drag queen named Coco Peru who is Nita Talbot reincarnated. I wrote her an email once in jest, accusing her of stealing Nita's look and act. Roddy McDowell sure had an interesting career, I love his clothes in this. And last but not least, Gil Peterson's album cover WTH? LOL. Such an amazing read, thanks for giving me a new obsession.

joel65913 said...

I'm glad you did a post on this now before the details of it faded away! I just recently saw this a-go-go nightmare during TCM's Summer Under the Stars month when they did a day devoted to Roddy McDowell-who like all stars with lengthy careers made a lot of junk intercepted on occasion with excellent films.

I don't even have much to say it was such a terrible film but it was fun to keep seeing Teri Garr pop up in the odd scene and then just vanish again.

I couldn't stand Debbie Watson, she's too vanilla to truly hate but talk about a void at the center of the film. You didn't say why Nancy Sinatra dropped out, not that she would have been much better, but were Deborah Walley and Pamela Tiffin too busy?

Gil Peterson was definitely a Ken Doll come to life and he fulfilled the eye candy quotient but was almost as flyaway as Watson.

The real fun came from McDowell, his goofy getups and sidekick Nita Talbot. I ADORE Nita Talbot!! No matter the show when I was a kid if I saw she was going to be a guest star I wouldn't dream of missing it. A wonderfully sly and gifted performer.

David Brum said...

The next-to last b&w picture of Gil Peterson shows his left side profile, and a rather unsettling ear lobe. Now that it's been seen, I cannot un-see it. Maybe that's why his career never took off?

hsc said...

Wow! I've been wanting to see this oddity for years and years, ever since Mike Weldon did a review of it in one of his PSYCHOTRONIC guides.

Since I don't have cable, I suppose the chances I'll actually get to see it are slim, so thanks for this wonderful, detailed review. It's the next best thing to actually seeing it, and perhaps even a heck of a lot better.

A couple of notes:

Many thanks for the numerous beefcake/bulge shots of Gil Petersen. Needless to say, a picture of him in those pants was one of the reasons I've been wanting to see this film. (Well, that and the presence of Mrs. Miller!)

He's surprisingly mature-looking for this sort of role, and based on that, while I was certainly pleased with the physique you revealed with his bathing suit shots, I was a little disappointed he wasn't more hirsute!

While you refer to him as "Malibu Ken", I guess I was expecting "Malibu Ken Clark"! Regardless, he's quite nice and I wish he'd had more of a career.

Despite the presence of Teri Garr, Debbie Watson's fellow back-up dancers make me wish they were taking that mountaintop gondola ride in something like "Avalanche!" instead.

The girls aren't that bad, but I really want to bitch-slap the guy with the facial hair and the shaggy-haired guy. (And that's just from a couple of stills.) The Russ Tamblyn-James MacArthur love child is simultaneously sorta cute and sorta creepy, but if I saw him talk or move, I'd probably hate him, too.

Towards the end of the review, the first row of that "restless, dead-eyed crowd" waiting for Mrs. Miller to take the stage appears to be made up of cast members from the high school scenes in John Waters' "Female Trouble". (I'd swear I just heard Chicklet tell Concetta, "I brought a knife, and if I don't hear singin' by the time I count to twenty, I'm cuttin' the seats.")

And while I'm sure this never occurred to whoever was in charge of the press materials, if you look at the two B/W lobby cards that follow in the order you presented them, it's like the dancers are reacting in agony to Mrs. Miller's singing! (Sure, they're probably just doing "The Tantrum," but that girl in the middle looks like her ear drums are about to explode!)

hsc said...

One final thing:

The "even more diminutive" group that Roddy finds in his closet were Jeff, Mike and Fritz Bantam, who were either brothers or cousins in real life. As "The Bantams," they performed the same year on a couple of lesser-known shows in the "Hullabaloo"/"Shindig" vein: "Hollywood a Go-Go" and "Shivaree."

Also the same year, they actually starred in their very own bizarre little "showbiz musical" called "You've Got to Be Smart" (aka "The Smart Ones"), which had a top-billed brief appearance by-- Mamie van Doren, of all people!

In this one, unscrupulous and disgraced ad man Tom Stern ("Angels from Hell") winds up stuck in a hick town in Arkansas, where he encounters "Methuselah Jones" (towhead Jeff Bantam), a 7-year old singing preacher and his two cousins (Mike and Fritz Bantam).

The ad man smells a gimmick and convinces the kids that L.A. is seriously in need of their soul-winnin' help. With the help of TV producer Roger Perry ("Count Yorga, Vampire") and Perry's girl Gloria Castillo ("Teenage Monster"), a new smash hit series "TV Tabernacle" is born and runs on viewer contributions.

All this is overlaid with ill-conceived musical numbers from most of the cast, and somewhere about an hour in, Mamie van Doren pops in to justify her "Special Guest Star" billing.

This was apparently the end of the line career-wise for Jeff, Mike and Fritz. A review of the Something Weird Video DVD-R release by John Charles in VIDEO WATCHDOG #95 (where I got most of my info on this film) describes Jeff as "one of the least-appealing child actors in memory... with his epidemic freckles, stern demeanor, and nasal voice, Bantam comes off like a slow-witted grade school bully."

(Alas, Susan Gordon had a producer father, so that sort of reaction never stopped her.)

Anyway, thanks for yet another great review!

DevilYouKnow said...

I have DVD'R'ed The Cool Ones (along with Lord Love a Duck too!) at least three times and still can't bring myself to watch either in full. I think I got through ten minutes of Cool before growing bored and wandering out of the room. I think I really, really have to be in a 60s kitsch kinda mood to enjoy movies like this, but nothing here seems to hold my attention. Same with the Beach Party movies which nearly everyone claims are great and I just can't get into! I digress!

It seems like some studio bigwig tried like hell to make Debbie Watson happen, but I don't feel like she ever really caught on the way she was suppose to. Like the person above said, I think she was just too much of a vanilla void. There's one episode of the sitcom Karen on YouTube in which she starred and it's decent enough (it has a kicky theme sung by The Beach Boys and was part of the failed 90 Bristol Court block of shows NBC tried to make happen). It's a run of the mill cutesy 60s teen sitcom which I generally enjoy, but Watson is so blah! Compare her to any teens of the day on a sitcom and you gotta wonder what whomever kept casting her in lead roles was smoking!

Roddy McDowell was such an odd duck. An odd, teflon covered duck because he seemed to still maintain the reputation of a respectable and good actor even though he appeared in a whole lot of dreck throughout the 60s and 70s. Don't get me wrong, I think he was a solid actor and even in dreck he's great, but I question a lot of his career choices. Some of his fabulous (silent) home movies of his Hollywood parties are also on YouTube and honey, they are chocked full of every star you can imagine! Paul Newman eating a hot dog! Jane Fonda chilling in a bikini on Roddy's porch! Lauren Bacall smoking and looking annoyed! I'm beginning to think he just took any job to fund those parties and pay for his beach house!

Poseidon3 said...

Scooter, good to see you! Glad I could, er, help you out with that! LOL it takes a special sort of "talent" to be that spectacularly awful. She seems to have been such a nice lady, however.

Gingerguy, this one seems to have struck a chord with you! I'm glad. IIRC, even Hootenanny was in B&W, right?? Amazing that the NBC peacock didn't cough up a color dance show during that era. That would have lit the screens afire. Thank you for the info about Lapine and the Mrs.Miller show! (He wrote Into the Woods, too, right?) LOL about Nancy's Dunkin' Donuts color scheme. I thought Gil Peterson was Malubu Ken, but now I've read where he looks like a character from Thunderbirds named Gordon Tracy. Google Image that for a real snort. When (if?!?!) I ever get a moment, I'll have to look at a few of the Coco Peru youtibe vids.

Joel, I truly don't know why Nancy Sinatra dropped this. I mean, yes, the script is crap, but other "greats" like For Those Who Think Young, Get Yourself a College Girl, The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini and The Wild Angels weren't also?!?!? What's the difference?! Perhaps it was all the dancing? After Speedway with Elvis the following year she gave acting up entirely... Debbie just seemed too cookie cutter typical to me. Nothing distinctive, really, and was only impressive vocally when Nancy's voice came out! LOL

David, I don't know why, but I'm not exactly seeing what you're seeing. Maybe it's because his ears are usually about the sixth or seventh thing I glance at??

HSC, thank you for your in-depth comments. I do want to let you know that you can get this movie on DVD at for like $12.00, so if you really want to see it, you should treat yourself for Christmas or something! (Also, on youtube there is a clip of Mrs. Miller "singing" It's Magic from this film, if you haven't seen that yet.) Peterson was in his early-thirties playing a character that is 24.... Of course, in H-Town, there is nothing unusual about this! You MUST SEE the male dancer with the dark beard in the film. His opening moments are screamingly funny, the way he moves. And he has a very surprising gravelly voice! The other one (Tamblyn-esque) I've since been told was a very, very busy dancer in many musicals, chiefly Hello, Dolly, wherein he wore disguises in each song to change his looks! Reportedly, he was a nice guy IRL. Yes, you are right about the Baltimore-ish audience! LOL Thanks also for the detailed info about The Bantams. Unreal....

DevilYouKnow... don't you have a button on your remote that skips ahead 30 seconds?! LOL I find it very useful for parts of a show I am not enjoying. And, yes, sometimes I find myself pushing it until the end credits pop up! Like I say, the first time I saw this, I was just in abject disbelief. I was watching on something like an 8" monitor on a treadmill and it was in letterbox (!), so it was almost like going to a Nickelodeon! Ha! The second time I watched it, I was very let down. Then I read more about it at my friend Ken's blog (Dreams Are What Le Cinema Is For) and his vibrant enthusiasm made me give it another try. Now it has begun to grab me... I've started to like it more than I ever thought I could or would. I will have to try to at least watch some of that Karen episode. And I have seen (and loved) Roddy's almost dreamlike home movies!

Thanks, everyone!!

Gingerguy said...

I finally saw this movie last night and it was everything you promised and morre. Absolutely bizarre.

Poseidon3 said...

Yay!! So glad you got to see this crazed movie! For another take on it and some different photos and background info, I encourage you to visit my pal Ken Anderson's great blog and see what he had to say about it, too: