Thursday, August 27, 2020


I do apologize that another lag has occurred with my posting at Poseidon's Underworld (though you do have to admit that my last one was a looonnng one, almost like the old days!) Things continue to be crazy, but there was also the fact that I took a very brief time to get away from it all... a rustic cabin in the woods with a married couple I've known for 30 years. It was heavenly to be away from the urban and suburban districts and recharge my batteries a little bit. Perfect weather, great friends, food and plenty of laughs. And the half-day I took off prior to departure was the very first personal/vacation time I have used in 2020! That meant that Monday was a beast, though, when I returned. Monday happened to be the 11th birthday of this site. You know I always like to celebrate milestones, but I simply wasn't able to this time.

To touch base again, I'm going to share more of those crazed COVID19 videos I made (and posted about previously right here.) All are improvised off-the-cuff (after a degree of prior thought, of course) with no script. These are already well over a month old, but still may be new to many of you. The first one is revisit with Jerrold on 7/2 after having not been around at all since 5/23. It's a casual trip through his by-now familiar side yard with his typical loony observations...

A couple of days later, we catch up with Jerrold's teenage daughter Misty, all atwitter over preparation for Daddy's birthday, complete with her customary obsession with The Golden Girls...

Then two days after that, Jerrold's wife Lorabeth is ecstatic to finally have gotten her hair paid attention to after months of neglect! She's also due for a rare evening out during the pandemic...

My newest creation is Wanetta Goins, a nicotine-tinged, rather-crusty (rather?!) mother-in-law to Jerrold and "mamaw" to his kids. Popular as Wanetta is among my friends, she hasn't made a second appearance yet because it requires me to lose my goatee again (and I need that fat-neck camouflage!)

Needless to say after this one, I decided it was time to turn the ship around when it comes to COVID19 weight gain...! Granted, I was deliberately trying to give her a "thick" appearance with the camera angle and body language, but nevertheless... It's high time to stop feeding my emotions and get my ass in gear again. I do have a series of posts coming up in order to try to mark the 11th birthday of P.U., so stay tuned!  Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Surely You "Geste?"

Today's featured movie is one which we have never seen broadcast on TV and which has fallen through the cracks, for the most part, as far as I can see. I've posted pictures from it occasionally, but finally was able to watch it here where I have discovered many a bucket list film in recent months. It's a rather unusual type of movie for me to write about, but if you bear with me, you may find some items of interest along the way. The updated script departs from both the novel and prior filmed versions with the notion that a fresh (not to mention American!) take would draw in young moviegoers. This post will be in photo essay form with captions instead of the usual text with integrated pictures along the way. It's just much, much easier these days to approach it this way. Life isn't hard enough, but now Blogger seems to be acting crazy as well... So with no further ado, we look at 1966's Beau Geste.
Often unfairly dismissed as an inexpensive or TV-level production, the movie was filmed in wide-screen and does offer some arresting location scenery (just not the actual Sahara!) The budget was kept low, but there were no highly-paid stars to unbalance the cost, so at least some of the money wound up on screen. Universal used some of its contract players and other less-costly actors to fill the parts.
While this rendition of the story is highly unfaithful to the famous source novel, it begins familiarly enough with a troop of legionnaires heading to a remote Saharan fort and finding it lifeless and smoking. When the major fires some shots in the air, he is met with return fire from an unseen gunman!
Upon closer inspection, all of the soldiers along the top of the fort are, in fact, dead. And once inside, the troop discovers that every single person within the structure is dead except for one...
The sole survivor, Guy Stockwell (the Beau Geste of the title) is asked by the major (Joe De Santis) to relay what has happened and how it is that everyone on site is deceased. Thus Stockwell begins to think back to where it all began.
We find a French Foreign Legion fortress in Africa where a new line-up of recruits is being indoctrinated. (The film-makers, in a promotional gimmick, asked for real former FFLers to come and work as soldier/extras and from 180 applicants, 25 were chosen to take part.)
In charge of the new recruits is Sgt. Major Telly Savalas, a hard-nosed tyrant who wastes no time insulting and berating the men in front of him. David Mauro, the one depicted here, was a legionnaire beforehand and is back for more. Throughout the film, there is an unmistakable sadomasochistic homo-eroticism between Savalas and him.
From the start, Savalas seems to take an instant dislike to Stockwell. However, as it turns out, he's got a good reason to hate at least one of the men...
A letter addressed to him, anonymously sent by someone identifying himself as a new recruit, has promised that - in the heat of battle - Savalas will be shot in the back and killed, with the melee of fighting serving to cover up the assassination!
Savalas announces that until the author of this letter is surrendered to him, he will treat every one of the men as if he is the one. Meaning, he's going to run them into the ground until the anonymous penpal is found.
Surely you recognize one Leslie Nielsen as Savalas Lt. Commander (and "please stop calling me Shirley!" Ha ha!) Nielsen is a kind and fair officer, but one beset by alcoholism. In a move he must have picked up from me at some point, he offers Savalas a drink with about a finger or two of brandy in it while his own snifter is almost full!
In the barracks, big-mouthed Mauro begins to loudly speculate who among them might be the author of the infamous letter. Eventually, he points out that Savalas seemed to be particularly suspicious of Stockwell.
Behind Mauro is towering Leo Gordon, one of many familiar movie and TV faces to dot this movie.
While breaking up rocks in the mountains, one of Stockwell's peers lies down of exhaustion and begins dreaming of better surroundings. Savalas spies four of the men halting their work and comes up with a demonstration of how to follow orders.
The men are blindfolded and ordered to march on Savalas' command. He makes them traipse back and forth, occasionally removing one of them until only Stockwell remains.
He orders Stockwell to the edge of a crevasse, then removes his blindfold so that he can see that he was mere inches from oblivion. He informs him that one must always be prepared for the unexpected.
Later in training, Stockwell pulls a fast one on Savalas and when the Sgt Major protests, Stockwell explains that one must always be prepared for the unexpected!
Nielsen calls Stockwell into his office for a chat and a drink. He knows the real reason Stockwell has joined the foreign legion. Back in America, he had confessed to a crime and run off in order to protect the reputation of a married woman he was seeing.
Now maybe I just have a dirty mind or maybe it's coincidence or maybe the director staged shots like this on purpose, but this movie, which is bereft of females except for one short scene, is always bursting with bottles in suggestive places! I mean, take a careful look at the composition above....!
As I noted, there is only one scene with women in it. Stockwell and his fellow recruits visit a casbah where a belly dancer is shaking her thing. She heads right up to Stockwell and he brushes her aside bemusedly.
And here's another one of those bottle shots I was telling you about.
Back at the beefy, brawny barracks, Mauro has decided that the soldiers should just pick a man, one they can easily do without, slit his throat and pretend to Savalas that he was the one who wrote the letter and that he confessed to it prior to his death.
A heretofore rather buttoned-up movie at this point begins to bring on a taste of beefcake.
I couldn't help wondering if this blond babe wasn't Stockwell's stand-in or stunt double, they have such similar looks.
I refer to this guy as "Ol' Eagle Tits" thanks to the tattoos above his nipples. Anyway, the men declare that the most disposable soldier on hand is Mauro himself! Soon, they've descended on him and are threatening to kill him!
The act is interrupted by Savalas and a shot from his handgun. Again, is it me or does this almost resemble an interrupted prison gang rape?
Again, I point out the staging.
Back in his quarters, Savalas slaps Mauro around, trying to determine what he did to incur the wrath of the other recruits. Mauro insists he was merely trying to ferret out the mystery man. Afterwards, Savalas carefully wipes off Mauro's mouth...
Furious over the mob attack in the barracks, Savalas demands that the men determine a volunteer to take special punishment for what happened. Stockwell, knowing that Savalas has it in for him anyway, volunteers. And it ain't pretty.
Stockwell is stripped to the waist, tied to a post and whipped repeatedly! I know there are some folks who are into this sort of thing. I am not, though I do always enjoy handsome men whose shirts go missing for some reason.
Because Savalas is so cruel throughout the movie, I should think this film would be something of a favorite of the hybrid "classic film/S&M" set. Ha ha!
A thoroughly beaten down Stockwell is face down on his cot being seen to by someone. Without being able to turn around completely, he recognizes the touch of the makeshift nurse and is stunned to realize that it is his very own brother!
Happily, baby brother is portrayed by cutie-pie Doug McClure, making his appearance at almost the halfway point of the movie.
McClure explains that he has run off in search of Stockwell, and joined the Legion under an assumed name, in order to let his brother know that the husband of the woman he is in love with has confessed to the crime at hand and has killed himself. In other words, Stockwell is no longer a "wanted man" back home!
Trouble is, Stockwell has signed on for five years and is now unable to desert and go back to her. He resolves to stay where he is. The two determine that no one should ever know that they are brothers. (Anyone else think that the normally handsome Stockwell actually resembles a young Ernest Borgnine here?!)
Everything that the brothers have just discussed has been overheard by the duplicitous Mauro. He reveals their secret to Savalas as he's spit-shining the man's boots.
Savalas informs Mauro that if he can provide proof that Stockwell is the would-be assassin, he will make Mauro his corporal. Mauro responds with, "You spoil me." All through this shot, Mauro is shining Savalas boot with a back and forth motion out-of-frame, but all we see is the stroking action of his arm....!
Now eager to draw the ire of Stockwell, Savalas makes it his business to pick on McClure. He asks McClure to punch him in the stomach, hard. He withstands it, but then wallops the young man back, causing him to fall backwards.
His brother wants to intervene, but McClure signals him to resist.
No CGI in this scene as there would be today. Just tons of shirtless men building a barrier wall as they make their way across the Sahara to the fortress they've been assigned to.
Here, Stockwell and McClure pretend to be meeting for the first time, to try to throw Savalas off their scent, unaware that he already knows they are brothers.
The two reminisce about a childhood attempt to create a Viking funeral, complete with fire and a watchdog. As they are enjoying this bonding moment, Savalas interrupts and assigns them to opposite ends of the security wall.
After a brief conversation with Nielsen, Stockwell is stunned to find that his leader has suddenly been knifed in the back! Raging Taureg warriors attack the camp, leaving many of the men injured.
The beleaguered assemblage finally makes its way to the outpost, whereupon the still-alive Nielsen insists on being place on horseback so he can enter the gates in a position of authority rather than on his back.
Nielsen manages to present the current commander of the fort with his orders before collapsing of exhaustion and injury onto the ground. 
The orders happened to involve the current men of the fort being sent away, with Nielsen's troop left to man it. Unfortunately, with Nielsen bedridden, that leaves Savalas in charge!
Stockwell and his brother McClure are on burial duty for the men who have continued to succumb to their illnesses and injuries from the recent attack. Just when they think that the last grave is ready for use...
...Savalas shows up and announces that it is too shallow. He keeps pushing McClure's buttons, eventually using his riding crop to swat the young man a couple of times.
This proves too much for Stockwell and he finally hauls off and lets Savalas have it, punching him down into the grave!
Furious Savalas is tossed onto his keister. (Note how the edges of the grave are highly rough and bumpy compared to the extremely flat and sharp ones in the photo above?)
This little outburst is going to prove costly to both Stockwell and McClure, it seems...
Savalas decides to see how Stockwell likes being down inside the grave himself.
The young man is buried up to his neck.
His reluctant fellow soldiers are required to fill in the dirt around their friend.
Meanwhilw, McClure's punishment is "the box," a tight, nearly airless, cell which sits in the sun, reluctantly guarded by Wolders.
McClure wants to know what is being done to his big brother, but Wolders decides it is better not to know.
Stockwell's punishment is from sun-up to sundown and is to last until Savalas decides to end it.
The scorching sun is soon broiling Stockwell from the neck up.
Meanwhile, McClure is suffering in a different way, contained in basically a mini-bake oven.
It's not in any way a pleasant experience for him, but he looks good during it!
By now the men have completely had it and are ready to mutiny. They want the brothers' support as they plan to take over the fort and do away with the tyrannical Savalas. But Stockwell protests that it is not the way to go.
The men are determined nonetheless and take up arms against their commander.
Savalas is ready for them, however, and begins gunning down his own men!
The brothers decide that they cannot allow this to happen, so they ultimately pitch in to try to defeat the sadistic Savalas.
The tyrant is captured and strung up. Gordon wants to gut him on the spot. Just then, though, the Tuaregs are back and loaded for bear. Incredibly, the men decide to release Savalas because they believe he is the only one who can offer leadership and strategy against them.
And he is a savvy military leader, but no less cruel than before.
Bedridden Nielsen implores Stockwell to uphold the honor of the legionnaires at any cost.
This was an interesting plan. As marauding Tauregs are attempting to batter the fort's door down...
...Savalas picks an opportune moment to open it (!)
Then blasts them all into oblivion.
Effective as that was, there are always more on the way. (Incidentally, the blue fabric worn by these tribesmen is accurate. The Taureg were often referred to as the "blue people" because of their indigo clothing, which sometimes came off onto their skin and tinted it blue!)
As the barrage continues, Savalas and Stockwell have to rely on one another even as they realize that they have unfinished business between them.
The three men shown here have a date with destiny though, as we learned at the top of the film, only one of them will be around to tell the tale, should he choose to.
I was thrilled to see that this movie ended with my favorite type of credits! The actors' faces pop up along with their names and who they played.
Stockwell was a child actor, along with his arguably more well-known brother Dean. Following time on the Broadway stage, he began working in movies, eventually landing a co-starring role on Gardner McKay's series Adventures in Paradise. By the mid-'60s he was working in a variety of feature films. He has to have set a record, however, for doing the most remakes in a short window of time. Apart from this one, he also starred in The Plainsman (1966) - a remake of the 1936 Cecil B. DeMille classic - and The King's Pirate (1967) - a remake of 1952's Against All Flags! One of his later appearances was in the Underworld fave Airport 1975 (1974.) Also a teacher of acting, he retired in 1990 when diabetes affected his health. The disease claimed him in 2002 at age 68.
Toothsome, blond McClure began working in bit movie roles and on TV in the mid-'50s and eventually graduated to supporting parts in Gidget (1959) and The Unforgiven (1960.) By 1962, however, he'd landed a costarring role in the highly-popular 90-minute western series The Virginian, which ran for a decade. He continued to make movies during his little free time (like this one and The King's Pirate, again alongside Stockwell.) Later, he starred in low-budget adventure flicks like The Land That Time Forgot (1974) and The People That Time Forgot (1977) - almost in danger of becoming "the actor that time forgot!" But he remains fondly remembered and worked right up to the time of his premature death of lung cancer in 1995 at only age 59.
Before he completely switched gears and became doubly-famous for his wacky and obtuse comic creations (beginning with Airplane!, 1980, and continuing with the Naked Gun series of films, among others), Nielsen was a reliable, if unspectacular, leading man. He costarred in the sci-fi classic Forbidden Planet (1956) and in The Opposite Sex (1956) and Tammy and the Bachelor (1957) as well. Of course, he holds a special place in our heart, too, as Captain of the S.S. Poseidon in The Poseidon Adventure (1972.) In 2010, Nielsen passed away of pneumonia at age 84, having stayed busy up until nearly the end of his life.
"Who loves ya, baby?" As Kojak, Savalas introduced that catchphrase to an enthralled TV audience. An Army veteran who was released due to severe injury in an auto accident, he first began in the news media before turning to acting almost accidentally. An association with Burt Lancaster in a couple of films led to an Oscar-nominated performance in Birdman of Alcatraz (1962), which he lost to Ed Begley in Sweet Bird of Youth. He did later win an Emmy and a Golden Globe for Kojak. After shaving his head for The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), he entered a whole new era of popularity and tough guys, sometimes with an underlying humanity and other times not. We can't forget to mention his role in the hooty Beyond the Poseidon Adventure (1979), giving Beau Geste an intriguing '70s disaster movie connection. Like his father before him, Savalas was felled by bladder cancer in 1994 when he was 78.
This was the movie debut of Mauro and, in fact, not a great deal is known about him. He did a fair amount of mid-'60s TV and small parts in features. He has a surprising disaster connection in that he was a passenger in Airport (1970) and also appeared in The Hindenburg (1975.) He passed away in 1983 at age 51 which, though I cannot be certain, seems to speak sadly of that particular time and circumstance.
Many of us know Wolders as the handsome Dutchman with a decade-long career as an actor (with the series Laredo being a highlight) who met the quarter-century older Merle Oberon during Interval (1973) and married her as soon as she could divorce her wealthy husband. After her death in 1979, he became the companion and, later, caregiver to Audrey Hepburn prior to her death. His own passing came at the age of 81 in 2018.
Imposing is a good word for big, brawny movie and TV villain Gordon. He actually had served time in prison (after having been shot by police and surviving!) for armed robbery, thus his sense of menace could be palpable at times. Self-educated and reformed, he went on the stage and then to films where he intimidated many a movie hero, including John Wayne. He also became a successful screenwriter for television and films. Married for 50 years to character actress Lynn Cartwright, he died of heart disease in 2000 at age 78.
A busy and familiar face on TV and in movies since the late-'50s, Constantine seemed at times to be everywhere while not exactly becoming a star. His role on Room 222 is likely one of his more identifiable ones. He did, however, enjoy a late-career highlight when he played the family patriarch in My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002) and in its short-lived sitcom and the sequel. Remarkably, Constantine, who retired after that sequel, is still with us today at age 93! This makes him the only principle actor from Geste still among us.
It was practically impossible to watch 1960s television and not come upon the highly prolific Throne. He also costarred in It Takes a Thief for about two-thirds of that show's run. Having begun on Broadway before taking to the airwaves, he was one of several distinctively named actors of that time (think Theodore Bikel or Nehemiah Pershoff.) He also became in demand for his voice, particularly in his later career. Throne passed away of lung cancer in 2013 at the age of 84.
Lastly, yet another prolific character actor from this cast, De Santis began in radio before segueing into movies and TV. Of Italian descent, he - like many others with dark looks - portrayed any and all ethnic types during his long career. After countless guest roles and the occasional movie, he moved to Utah where he occasionally worked on local projects. He passed away in 1989 of lung disease at age 80.
Most of you are probably not aware of it, but Guy Stockwell is partially responsible for the success of Poseidon's Underworld as a blog. He was the recipient of one of our early posts (in which Guy Stockwell, Guy Madison and Guy Williams were all featured) and many people in France & Spain clicked on the site during searches for him. In fact, he remains to this day THE name which brings people here the most!! So, as we will be turning 11 years old next week, this post is something of a thank you to all those fans as well.
Not seen in the movie, this angle of Mr. Stockwell on the receiving end of a whip.
In one of his multiple guises for the anthology series The Richard Boone Show, of which he was a regular player from 1963-1964.
And finally with director Douglas Heyes (on the right) being fitted for a rope in preparation for the burial sequence. Beau "Chest!"