Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Reunited: M. Emmet Walsh & Robert Hooks

This may become a semi-regular feature here in Poseidon's Underworld. We'll see. But in the meantime, here we go with this one. As my loyal readers know, I'm crazy for 1970s disaster flicks and there are certain ones that I have to see every so often or I can feel my life force slowly dissipating. Ha ha! One of those is Airport '77 (1977.) I just can never get enough of it! As seen in this shot of the film, Miss Olivia de Havilland is meeting up with a trio of men with whom she'll soon be playing poker. (Such is the depth of talent in the film that even the smallish roles of the card players are enacted by the likes of George Furth, James Booth along with M. Emmet Walsh.) In the background, one can see bartender Robert Hooks plying his trade.

Hooks primary customer is the deliciously nasty Miss Lee Grant, who likes her glass full (and also doesn't mind collecting the little airline bottles of martinis and margaritas!) Walsh is busy with his card game, so the two don't have a great deal of interaction.

When hijackers drug everyone on board through the ventilation system (using gas masks to keep themselves alert), Walsh collapses face first onto the card table. One can see that, as luck would have it, he had a fistful of queens at the time!
In a continuity gaffe, Walsh's cards are suddenly not as good in this later shot!
Hooks has the misfortune of having asked to use the office phone to call his wife (who is expecting twins) and when the plane unexpectedly crashes into the ocean, he's felled by a heavy piece of equipment that shatters his right leg!

Really from that point on, his chief contribution to the film is to grimace feverishly and groan in agonizing pain.

Walsh, the only doctor on board, is kept busy seeing to the many injured passengers, including Hooks, who he helps get moved to a more comfortable spot in the plush cabin.

When he's unsure of Hooks' prognosis, the chief stewardess Monica Lewis presses him about how he doesn't sound very reassuring, whereupon Walsh reveals that he is a doctor of veterinary medicine (!) who sees after the plane's rich owner's set of horses.

Hooks isn't the only one who feeds Ms. Grant liquor. When she is faced with a jolting emotional shock about 3/4ths of the way into the film, he tries to ease her pain with a shot of scotch, but surprisingly enough she's not having it.

During the climactic raising of the plane from under the surface of the ocean, Walsh is deluged with water.
Meanwhile, the newly-disabled Hooks (who has inherited a steward who keeps him clamped in place during the onslaught of water) has to face his own wave of violent sea water. he comes out of it looking demonstrably better than his costar Ms. Brenda Vaccaro!
Walsh helps all the injured passengers out the plane's door and into waiting rescue rafts, including Mr. Hooks, but in a series of hapless moments, Hooks is dropped to the surface of the wing they're standing on and then plopped into a raft in which passengers keep hopping in and onto his damaged leg! But, hey, they made it...
Cut to 1981, both actors are cast together again. This time the movie is Fast-Walking, an outra- geously raunchy, serio-comic flick about a lackadaisical prison guard (James Woods) who finds himself embroiled in a mess when a high profile Black militant leader is transferred to his facility. Here we see the leader (Hooks) being escorted to his cell by Walsh, playing a crooked prison guard.

This time the actors' interaction is more consi- derable, with Walsh doing his best to intimidate, annoy and even entrap Hooks during his stay at the clink.

One scene includes Walsh forcing Hooks to exit his cell while young Woods is instructed to thoroughly search the place (and hopefully find the knife/shank that Walsh has just planted inside!)

But that's not enough. Walsh also instructs another guard to strip search Hooks, lest he be hiding any contraband in places not readily visible...!

The forty-four year-old Hooks was still in pretty good shape at this point. It should be noted that the forty-six year-old (and clearly NOT in as good of shape) Walsh has a full frontal nude scene in the film! It's a medium-to-long shot, but it's there.

Walsh, now eighty-four and still acting, is a remarkably versatile actor with many interesting roles and films to his credit. Slap Shot (1977), Ordinary People (1980), Blade Runner (1982), Silkwood (1983) and Raising Arizona (1987) are but a few titles from his extraordinary prolific career. His role in Blood Simple (1984) is most likely the best known and for good reason. Despite a slate of mind-blowingly funny, vivid and/or meaningful parts, he's never once been nominated for an Emmy, an Oscar or even a Golden Globe.

Hooks, now eighty-two, has only worked sporadically since 2000. Though he was also a versatile and busy performer, his work in television was more prominent than in movies. Fast-Walking was his very next film after Airport '77 while Walsh had about eight or ten within the same period along with television parts! He did costar in one of our very favorite guilty pleasures, Hurry, Sundown (1967) and later appeared in Passenger 57 (1992.) From 1967 to 1969, he and his Sundown costar Frank Converse starred in the well-received and often gritty police show N.Y.P.D. along with Jack Warden. And M. Emmet Walsh was a guest star on it in 1969. Hooks and Walsh also both appeared in the pilot movie for the 1990 series The Flash, which starred John Wesley Shipp.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

"Shark's" Bites!

For many folks my age, the golden and silver age stars of the cinema were first discovered in blurry, cropped, panned & scanned, edited prints of movies played in the afternoons on local UHF stations or perhaps late at night after the local news. It was here that I was first exposed (no pun intended!) to someone called Cornel Wilde. There was something on TV called The Naked Prey (1965) and that was enough to make me tune in. It wound up being a terrific, harrowing account of a man captured by Africans, stripped naked and hunted down like a dog. A decade later, Wilde (at age sixty-three!) was still practically naked, writing, directing and starring in the vanity project Shark's Treasure (1975), a close forerunner to Jaws (1975.)

Treasure begins with a young man (Ron Neilson) discovering some ancient coins on the floor of the ocean not far from Belize. The area is crawling with sharks and, knowing he cannot possibly unearth the rest of the loot from an old Spanish galleon on his own, he goes to a craggy boat captain (Wilde) to partner up.

The crusty Wilde is skeptical to say the least. Not only is he not sold on the idea of an authentic, long-buried treasure being available to him as easily as the kid tells him, he isn't too hot on young cohorts, having just fired one right before Neilson's pitch!

Neilson insists, however, that the claim is real and that he can find the area again with a bag over his head. It's marked by two rocks jutting up out of the water. Baby-faced Neilson was thirty-one at the time, but is constantly referred to as "Kid."

Wilde heads to a local library and is able to determine that the coin Neilson has presented to him is indeed one from a sunken treasure ship that surely contained far more loot on it.

He partners up with the young man and they prepare for an expedition to the site. While gathering the necessary supplies, they are accosted by Yaphet Kotto who all but begs to be brought along on the trip as another diver. As Wilde was intending to hire two divers anyway, he takes on Kotto along with one of his pals, another trained diver.
The other diver (David Canary) has a bit of a stutter, which makes Wilde wonder to Kotto if he's going to be capable enough to carry out his duties. Kotto explains that Canary was once a P.O.W. during Vietnam and suffers some residual effects from it, but is generally all right.

"I'll decide who gets a thigh around here..."
To say that Wilde runs a tight ship is something of an under- statement. He won't serve the fried chicken (!) that Kotto made until it's been prayed over and he insists that the skipper gets first choice of the pieces available.

Then, when Kotto attempts to light an after-dinner cigarette, Wilde lays down the law that not only will there be no smoking in his cabin, but there also won't be any on board at all, even on deck!

The next morning, we get our first idea that perhaps the costume budget for this movie was kept at a minimum. Kotto is seen in a little red Speedo and Canary (barely visible behind him) is sporting a little blue one.

And then we find that Papaw Wilde is modeling a teensy black one of his own when he suddenly appears on deck to discover Kotto sneaking a smoke!

As the ship gets closer to the area where the treasure is allegedly located, we are treated to various picturesque shots of the ocean and the setting sun.

Having docked at a nearby village before setting off on their last leg, the boat is boarded by a local police captain who is searching for five escaped convicts.

He wants to know if there are any weapons on Wilde's boat and insists on having the vessel searched, to Wilde's dismay. (I'll tell you now that even though Wilde, Kotto and Canary barely bother to get dressed for the rest of the movie, Neilson for whatever reason is always in shorts, never a Speedo of his own.)

The policeman (Carmen Argenziano) is in the midst of describing the fugitives when one suddenly is spotted and hunted down by the rest of the force. He's finally shot to death, leaving only four more to look for. After this bit of excitement, the crew heads to a local cantina for a beer to settle their nerves. The barmaid sees something she likes to settle her own nerves, too!
Later, Neilson heads to the shack of this woman (Roxanna Bonilla) where the heat begins to bubble up between them. Even in her lust, she's curious about who he is and why he is there and she gets him to spill some of the details. She removes her blouse and he shucks his own clothing in anticipation.
Then she claims she spots her father coming and Neilson is forced to sidle out the back, stark naked, and run for his life - clothes in hand! (Strange that the actor did a semi-nude scene but didn't or wouldn't don a pair of trunks like al the other actors.)

He scampers down the beach to the safety of his boat, trying to put shoes on as he bobs around in the buff!

The next day, he is elated to have directed Wilde to the very spot where the treasure is located. The men jubilantly celebrate their arrival. However, Wilde soon finds that this isn't the place at all. There's nothing down there...! (Maybe Neilson isn't as familiar with twin pointers as he thinks!)
So now they're off again to find two more rocks jutting out of the ocean. (I don't know how Kotto, from his "lookout" position, can see anymore or any further than Neilson directly in front of him with binoculars!)

After yet another failed landing of the site, Neilson is distraught and tries to concentrate in his bunk at night as to where the hell this shipwreck is exactly. (He reminds me of Bobby Brady here for some reason!)

Meanwhile, the boat is experi- encing mechanical difficulty and Kotto is struggling to fix it. Tensions are rising amongst the four of them.

They seem to finally have found the correct site, but, as Neilson had noted earlier, it is crawling with dangerous sharks! Wilde barely makes it onto the landing pad of the boat before one of them eats him. In fact, he loses part of a flipper to one of the hungry devils!

Now the men are really at odds. Kotto doesn't want to get in the water with those sharks all around, but Wilde is insistent that he do so.

In order to "thin the herd" of some of the predators who are keeping them from their bounty, Wilde rigs up a set of shark traps, which do indeed capture (and kill?) a number of the maneaters.

He then takes Neilson to the bottom of the ocean floor in a cage so that he can get an up close and personal view of their opponents.
Real sharks appear in this sequence (according to the poster, in all sequences!) and one of them bashes in one of the railings of the cage and attempts to eat Wilde and Neilson.

The sharks aren't the only problem, though. En route to the boat are the four escaped convicts and an accomplice. The accomplice had used the cantina waitress to glean info about the treasure seekers and now they want to come and hijack the boat to help their escape!

With many of the sharks now out of the way, the crew of Wilde's boat begin to set up a contraption to retrieve the long-buried Spanish gold from the floor of the ocean.

A huge vaccuum device slurps up sand and debris, depositing it on a floating screen from which an elated Canary can retrieve various gold coins and artifacts. The other men below scoop up various items of their own.

Topside, they begin sorting through their finds and are excited about little bits of gold coin and jewelry that's being extracted from the site. But Wilde is angry. He accuses Neilson of pocketing a piece of the gold from the excavation and putting it in his pocket!

Kotto attempts to intervene and defend Neilson, but it's no good. Finally, Neilson has to admit that he did take a gold cross from the loot and pocket it, but only so that it could be presented to Wilde for his birthday, which is on the horizon! With this Wilde decides he needs to prove to the men (and to the viewing audience) just how in shape he is for his age. He drops to the deck and does a round of push-ups, including one-handed ones.
Having lectured the men on praying and smoking, Wilde now starts in on booze. While he enjoys a beer here and there, he pontificates about hard liquor that the human liver can only process one ounce per hour so any more than that is harmful to the system. (His side-gathered swimsuit, by the way, is one of the damnedest things you'll ever see on a sexagenarian.)

Speaking of suits, Neilson is poking around the boat one day and finds a leftover (and truly ugly) bikini left behind by a female charter passenger. He remarks that he'd love to have seen who it was that filled it out.
After further diving and more treasure removed from the sea, Wilde estimates that there is about $400,000 worth of artifacts on hand. That would tend to make most people happy (especially in 1975!), but Kotto is not pleased. You see, the loot is mostly for Wilde and Neilson. Kotto and Canary are merely hired divers who stand to gain only about $20,000 (which is still a nice chunk of change for that time. Hell, I wouldn't say no to it now!)

While up on deck ruminating about the puny amount of money he'll be making when he risked his life among the sharks, Kotto suddenly hears moaning and discovers a seemingly injured man lying on the floor of the boat, having come from God knows where!

He calls for the other members of the crew who come racing out to see what the matter is.

Unfortunately, it's all a set up. The man isn't hurt at all. He was merely a distraction to allow for the fugitives' ringleader to get in position to overtake the boat. The main man is known as Loco (played by Cliff Osmond.)

The treasure hunters are gathered up and bound with their arms behind their backs. It still irks me that Neilson isn't in a Speedo like all of his buddies are. If nothing else it sets off my OCD that one person is out of "uniform!" Ha ha!
While the bad guys are having lunch and the captives are sitting in the sun tied up, one of them (Dale Ishimoto) is stroking the long shaft of his rifle while giving young Neilson the eye! The young man tries to downplay this as much as he can under the circumstances.
Things go from bad to worse, though, when one of the ex-convicts accidentally discovers all the gold treasure hidden under a tarp! Now Osmond has decided to do more than just steal the boat. He wants the men to go back underwater and bring up still more buried treasure!
It is revealed that the young blonde chippie (David Gilliam) who is part of the fugitive gang is and has been Osmond's lover! The two were a couple in prison and have continued their association on the run though, understandably, Osmond is more into Gilliam than vice versa. Note that they have begun wearing Kotto and Neilson's clothing!
While Wilde and crew are tied up and laid on deck, the camera has a crotch-level view of the captives. It's as if Wilde wanted to make sure there was a cinematic record of every inch of his physique!

The men attempt an escape, but are quickly thwarted and in sort time Canary comes out of it severely injured. Osmond, whose character isn't called Loco for nothing, tosses the hapless Canary into the water where he is unable to fend for himself.

Kotto's reaction to this is something to behold. He unearths a guttural, soul-filled scream which makes one wonder if perhaps Canary was something more than just a friend to him! I know that some of us gays like to read homosexuality into everything, but I mean it. It seems a little more like his losing a mate than a friend.
Did they or didn't they...? We may never know.
Anyway, the poor guy's body (or stunt double) careens down the water to the bottom where it is soon spotted by, you guessed it, a bunch of sharks.

Next, Gilliam has located the bikini and brought it out on deck, making a fuss over it. One of the convicts, in an acting choice Lee Strasberg might have applauded, takes the bottoms and presses the fabric up to his face, smelling it deeply!

Osmond has other plans, though. He wants Gilliam to put it on (!) and parade around the deck in it for everyone's delight. Gilliam refuses and begins to protest strenuously, but Osmond is set on having his fun.
When Gilliam still refuses to put the ladies' swimsuit on an model it for everyone, Osmond takes off his belt and beats the daylights out of him with it. Gilliam screams in agony as the belt wallops him repeatedly. Wilde tries to see to the injured man's wounds with a first aid kit.

Like many abusers, Osmond is repentant, to a point, and wants Gilliam to forgive him for the assault.
Next thing you know, Neilson refers to Osmond as a sadist and Osmond decides to lick him, too, but Pappy Wilde won't hear of it. He decides to take on Osmond in a freestyle boxing match!
He even lands a few good punches on Osmond before the towering lug finally sends Wilde flying to the bottom of the deck.
Apparently Osmond enjoyed the view of a face-down Wilde enough that he sat in a chair overnight peering at it... Once Wilde is awake and has shaken off his own beat-down, Osmond and he chat about the relationship between the fugitives' gang leader and the blond boy toy who he whipped like crazy.

Wilde decides to tell Osmond he will speak to the young man on his behalf to try to repair things between them. This gives him ample time to head into the cabin and redress the boy's wounds while actually encouraging him to run away from Osmond and, in fact, help all of them escape!

The remaining crew and Gilliam do manage to escape into the Zodiac motorized raft and off they go to safety!

Unfortunately, they've barely cleared the hijacked boat when (naturally...!) a "whale shark" bangs into their little raft and overturns it, spilling them all into the water!
They manage to right the raft and get back into it, but the outboard motor has sunk into oblivion. They have one weapon, a CO2 spear, and a bag of treasure, but that's about it... They have to now take turns spreading their legs to the camera rowing their way to the nearest possible shore.
More intent on retrieving his little blond bundle of love, and I suppose the treasure, too, than actually escaping, Osmond and his cronies are in hot pursuit with Wilde's boat.

The water near the land is rough to say the least. ("The tiny ship was tossed... if not for the courage of the fearless crew...") Eventually, even the bag of gold is once again lost to the sea.
There may have been some stuntmen for various underwater segments, shark encounters and maybe even some of this part of the movie, but it cannot be denied that for the most part the actors were out there doing it for real in some ROUGH ASS surf!

Even Osmond and his band of baddies wind up being overturned in the small launch they used to close in on their one-time captives. (And, likewise, those actors were also doing their own stunts in the surf.)

I won't go into every detail of the climax and denoue- ment, but at one point Kotto is injured. Wilde makes the peculiar decision to help him by taking his head and pressing it up against his own lower abdominal region so that Kotto's face is situated directly above Wilde's wet weenie-bulge! LOL
"...and this is helping me HOW?"
At the finale, somehow Wilde looks more creaky and awkward than at any other point in the film. I guess we can blame it on the ordeal of the whole thing. Canary's horrible demise seems to have been overlooked as the remaining trio decide to got into an even three-way partnership. There's still some un-stolen silver and the promise of more gold down in the initial location.
Wilde was a gifted fencing student who was selected to represent the U.S. in the 1936 Olympics, but opted to drop out and pursue a theatre opportunity instead. He also gave up a scholarship for med school at Columbia in order to pursue his acting career. It wasn't until he was teaching Laurence Olivier to fence for Broadway's Romeo and Juliet (in which he portrayed Tybalt) that he gained the attention of Warner Brothers.

He soon switched to 20th Century Fox studios and acted in a variety of roles, though a vast number of them focused on his athletic physique (and he was frequently shirtless on his movie posters.) A loan out to Columbia resulted in his greatest success with his portrayal of Frédéric Chopin in A Song to Remember (1945.) He was nominated for an Oscar, which went to Ray Milland in The Lost Weekend. He also figured in the massive hit The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) as a trapeze artist.
I've got your "Greatest Show..."
Always stubborn when it came to both quality of roles and pay, he clashed with studio heads more than once. In 1955, he and his second wife Jean Wallace formed a production company and for twenty years (ending with Shark's Treasure) he was able to write, direct and star in a number of films of his own design. He continued to take on supporting roles in costume pictures and work as a guest on television until 1987. The lifelong health advocate died of leukemia in 1989 at age seventy-seven.

He'd first gotten the idea for Treasure in 1969, but wasn't able to obtain any financing until the 1974 novel Jaws became a best seller. He was able to get his movie (which boasted of real, not mechanical, sharks) into theaters a couple of months before the blockbuster Jaws (1975) blew all the competition out of the water. He also co-wrote (under an assumed name) the staggeringly awful song "Money Money" which appears in a montage during Treasure. Note how this poster hysterically takes the shot of Neilson running naked down the beach and morphs it into a voluptuous nude woman! False advertising!!
Artwork for use in promotion and the posters. The captions on the poster, just for the record are:  "The P.O.W. - He survives the tiger cages of Nam for the fight of his life," "The Black Irish - Like a live grenade he'll explode in your face," "Lobo - The escaped murdered - with nothing to lose and everything to gain, he and his gang are as dangerous as sharks!," "The Kid - The treasure was his only hope. He had to find it!" and "The Captain - All he had was his boat. But he gambled it - along with his life - to get the treasure."
Kotto had begun on in films and on TV in the mid-1960s (I recall him being on The Big Valley two times, memorably) and eventually won roles in movies like The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) and The Liberation of L.B. Jones (1970.) Later came the high profile Live and Let Die (1973) and some gritty action movies before Alien (1979) really put him on the map. Some fans of Alien have drawn comparisons to his character in this film and that one. Amidst a busy career, he had a long role on TV's Homicide: Life on the Street in the 1990s. He is currently seventy-nine and has been off screen since 2008.

Neilson worked on mid-1960s TV before taking the title role in 1971's Honky, an interracial Blaxploitation love story opposite Brenda Sykes. This was followed by Terror House (1972) which was his only work from then until Treasure. The husband of actress Karen Jensen for two decades, ending in 1990, he died in 2000 at only age fifty-five of undisclosed causes.

Canary had been a college football player who was even selected by the Denver Broncos as a tight end for a brief while before entering the U.S. Army for two years. Afterwards, he focused on an acting career, landing a job on Peyton Place followed by the role of Candy on Bonanza in the wake of Pernell Roberts departure. He's surely most famous now for having been nominated for sixteen Daytime Emmys (winning five) as Adam Chandler (and his twin Stuart) on All My Children. Having portrayed Adam as recently as 2013, Canary died of natural causes in 2015 at age seventy-seven.

The towering 6'5" Osmond toiled on television from the early-1960s on and benefited from being cast by Billy Wilder in four films. A highly familiar face, he was adept at playing both lumbering idiots and coolly evil bad guys. After the mid-1990s, he focused more on producing, directing and teaching acting at his own studio. He was claimed by pancreatic cancer in 2012 at age seventy-five.

Canadian actor Gilliam had a peculiar start in films, playing the homosexual Alice in Dirty Harry (1971) followed by a role as Ray Milland's spoiled grandson in Frogs (1972.) A fair amount of TV and movies followed, even including a part in 2008's Slumdog Millionaire. His age is not known exactly, but he'd be close to sixty by now and currently lives and works in Christchurch, New Zealand with his wife.

Argenziano, who was an American of Italian descent, had begun working on TV and in movies in 1969 and would proceed to a very prolific career as a character actor, often as authoritative doctors, lawyers and police detectives. My first exposure to him was during the 1989 Richard Grieco series Booker and he caught my eye then as a sexy daddy type. He later worked on Stargate SG-1 among many other projects. He died in February of 2019 of undisclosed causes at age seventy-five.
Shark's Treasure is rarely "good," but it definitely has its intriguing aspects. I mean, who in the hell writes and directs an oceanic adventure film that is riddled with either gay characters or maybe gay characters and has most of the cast in about a square foot of fabric for 70% of the time? Wilde was himself an active heterosexual who was married (to two women) for forty-four years, had two children and maintained an active dating life up into his seventies. So it's a real curio to see the hooty story he concocted and to watch him showing off. (If you've ever cringed at one of those infamous "naked old men" in the gym locker room, this may not be a bucket list film for you! - LOL - but I think fans of Kotto and Canary might like seeing it.)