Thursday, June 24, 2021

Poseidon Quickies: I'm "Banning" This Today.

Yet another in a long string of films that I yearned to see for many years but which proved unavailable, 1967's Banning is all but forgotten by most people. I just love anything made in 1967 (as well as most any Universal Studios film from the 1950s-1970s) so much that it had been beckoning to me for decades. Marketed as a squalid sex romp, there is a certain amount of seduction going on here and there, but at its heart, the movie concerns itself with building suspense over a climactic game of... golf!

Yes, Banning is set at a hoity-toity country club where golf is king. Notice the titles are all in lower-case versus the capital B on the poster.

Robert Wagner is the man of the title. I love titles that show the performers along with his or her name, though that only goes for three of the cast this time out. He plays a golfer who's come to the club on a mission.

Anjanette Comer, then in the midst of a brief run at movie stardom (The Loved One, 1965, and The Appaloosa, 1966, under her belt) costars as the club's social director.

Jill St. John is a wealthy, and voracious, divorcee, who fills her boring nights with a series of conquests.

Wagner appears on the course to meet an old pal, requesting - or basically demanding - a job from him as assistant pro at the club.

Said pal/club manager is played by Guy Stockwell. He is reluctant to take Wagner on, especially since the spot has been promised to another employee, but he's left with little choice.

Making her feature film debut as Stockwell's pretty wife is Canadian actress Susan Clark.

As the man whose job is shafted in place of Wagner, we find James Farentino, who you might recall from our recent post about Ensign Pulver (1964.) In a blink-and-you'll-miss-it bit part, we see hunky Don Stroud, who would proceed to a busy career of his own.

The movie is a great time capsule of a particular moment in time (glossed up to be certain!) All the gals are made up to the hilt, hair pouffed and bouffed and sporting snappy clothing. As this is a "Quickie," I'm not going to bore you with the specific details of the plot-line, a surprisingly banal situation for a feature film, though the pleasure is assumed to be found in the elegant settings, the sometimes saucy remarks and the machinations of the upper crust in their native habitat. I'm just going to present you with a few things that interested me.

I thought this style of up-do paired with drop earrings really suited Ms. Clark. She, like all the gals in the film, is dressed by Jean Louis.

St. John spends part of her time (the earlier bit of the evening, not the shank!) amid a couple of lavender gents and they trade catty barbs to one another or about other club members.

One of St. John's objects of ridicule is a glitzy matron played in a bit role by Lucille Meredith. (Meredith was the real-life wife of Emmy-winning -- for Columbo and Barney Miller --  TV writer Roland Kibbee.) She presents her nephew "Chilton" and one can only imagine what went through St. John's buddies' minds...! The actor, Michael Brown, only has one other credit, a role in a Robert Downey Sr short film.

Clark isn't the only one with a swell up-do and chandelier earrings. The party scenes are brimming over with the same.

Staff member Comer is saddled with far plainer clothing and a sort of matronly wig, which she often sticks a pastel headband onto.

This is the moment when Wagner meets St. John. As you likely know, they later ended up married in real life. At this time, he was divorced from Natalie Wood and married to Marion Marshall. He'd later wed Wood a second time and then connect with St. John a little while after. At this time she was preparing to wed her third husband, singer Jack Jones, but that would last less than two years. Married now since 1990, Wagner and St. John's union has outlasted all of their previous six marriages combined!

Hardly strangers, they'd known each other since the mid-'50s. In fact, they'd just costarred earlier in 1967 in the television movie How I Spent My Summer Vacation, as shown here. I've always found it fascinating that Wagner's first (and third!) wife Wood, his fourth wife St. John and his longstanding TV wife from Hart to Hart, Stefanie Powers, were all in the very same small dance class as children...! What are the chances? I guess in Tinseltown, not so slim after all. (By the way, he is photographed better and shows much more chest in that TV movie than in Banning.)

St. John's unusual seduction methods include having Wagner arrested and turned over into her custody! Once back at her place, which has the damnedest looking decor you're likely to see in a movie, he discovers who she adores more than anyone else...

Still, she's hungry for a new notch in her belt, so she does everything she can to nab her man.

It seems like she had this same hairstyle in practically every movie I have ever seen her in, but maybe it's because I so often seek out mid-'60s flicks. In any case, she saunters off to slip on something more comfortable and Wagner bolts!

She's not one to give up too easily though. Later on, he returns to his quarters at the club to find her installed in his bed. And this time he gives her what she's after.

Though Wagner gets snagged by St. John, he is also pursued by Clark (see why I prefer her hair piled up?)

But ultimately, he's most interested in more practical Comer. I guess there are worse problems a guy could have than juggling the three!

Now to note a couple more moments which grabbed my attention. Here we find Farentino, all steamed about being passed over for the assistant golf pro position he was promised.

He pleads his case to the resident pro, who's taking a steam bath. The guy is played by none other than a pre-stardom Gene Hackman!

Hair-greyed, his character is a struggling alcoholic past his prime. This was the year things took off for Hackman after close to a decade of working on TV and in movies. It began with his supporting part in Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and continued on from there with The French Connection (1971) earning him an Oscar (with the leading role in The Poseidon Adventure, 1972, directly following that.) 

For the longest time, it feels like Hackman is the only man we're going to see shirtless in Banning.

Even when Stockwell, who'd shown off his chest the year before in Beau Geste (1966), comes into the steam room, he's cloaked in a giant sheet.

Farentino gives us a plunging neckline from his damp shirt, but that's it for the steam room.

All of these discussions would have been more arresting had there been fewer coverings on the men.

Fortunately, we're treated a bit later to a shower sequence.

While not especially revealing, at least it's a nice male-bonding moment between Wagner and Farentino.

I do admit I was a little startled when Wagner wrapped a towel around him, which would then have been sodden with water, before he stepped on a nearby scale...! Good lord, I trim my fingernails and sometimes eyebrows before stepping on a scale! LOL But I guess he could afford the added water weight.

Ultimately, and surprisingly considering his billing and some of the rest of the cast, it is Farentino who winds up providing the most on-screen beefcake. And he looks great.

Farentino had just married Michele Lee the year before this, in the wake of a three-year marriage to Elizabeth Ashley. He and Lee stayed together until 1983. Characterized as a fiery personality, two more marriages and a troubled engagement to Tina Sinatra would follow. 

Banning is glossy studio fodder, straining to be spicy, but I am nonetheless drawn to movies like this with all-star casts looking great. And as an added bonus for me, there are a few 1970s disaster movie veterans on hand. Wagner of The Towering Inferno and The Concorde... Airport '79, Stockwell and Clark from Airport 1975 (and she was in City on Fire, too) and Hackman from The Poseidon Adventure. I wanted to link the movie here, but it's already gone that fast...! The best I can do is the trailer, which makes the whole thing seem even more sordid than it actually is.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Poseidon Quickies: Prepare to Get "Pulver"-ized!

Oh, sure... I had heard of the 1964 movie Ensign Pulver, a sequel to the monster hit Mister Roberts (1955), with different actors and mostly different characters, to boot.  However, it's sort of obscure and I never sought it out (I haven't even seen Mister Roberts if you want the whole truth!) I also got it a bit mixed up with things like The Wackiest Ship in the Army (1960) or All Hands on Deck (1961) and many other hijinks-laden flicks set on military sea vessels. But recently, a P.U. reader mentioned the movie to me and I felt the need to look it up. There was a nice little tidal wave of South Pacific (1958) style sailor beefcake to be found! And on top of that, there were enough familiar faces in it to fill out the famed puzzle board on Hollywood Squares

Inhabiting the role which won Jack Lemmon an Oscar is young Robert Walker Jr. I don't have to see Mister Roberts to know that there is precious little similarity between the two men...!

Whenever I see Walker Jr, though, I'm struck by his strong resemblance to his gifted father, the dynamic, but very troubled, Robert Walker. The father is immortal for his work as a devious killer in Alfred Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train (1951.)  Walker Sr, having never recovered from losing his wife Jennifer Jones to David O. Selznick and having developed an alcohol addiction, died at 32 the same year Strangers was released. He'd been given a sedative which interacted badly with the alcohol in his system.

Aaannnyway... Pulver gets off to a rather promising start when we meet a bunch of sailors all piled up onto one another, singing a song. Dead center is a young James Farentino. Below him, to the left, is George Lindsey, who would later gain fame as Goober on The Andy Griffith Show. And then to the right is the gorgeous puss of one of our all-time faves, Dick Gautier!

Somehow at some point, the guys forgot exactly where they'd been because here Gautier is in the row behind Farentino and Lindsey where before he was directly next to them!

We then see the cramped/cozy sleeping quarters of the men, stacked up like cartons of eggs at a grocery store...!

Enjoying a bit more privacy (not to mention bed stability) are these two. On the bottom bunk, a young Larry Hagman and on top (being woken by a couple of kicks) is Peter Marshall. See? I really meant it when I said that we could do an ep of Hollywood Squares with these actors!

Hagman, even with all that J.R. Ewing bed-hopping on Dallas, rarely did any beefcake in his projects, but here he is in a pair of boxers. And popping in that porthole is none other than Jack Nicholson!

The director, Josh Logan (who also did South Pacific), was noted for including plenty of male eye candy in his stage and screen projects. This sailor's get-up on the left as he is taking on loads (of cargo) was very sexy.

Here is Farentino up close again, with Gautier on the right. There is nearly always a shimmering, well-built seaman on display in the picture.

Less conventionally handsome are the principle stars Walter Matthau and Burl Ives. Matthau is the principled ship's doctor while Ives is the despotic captain, being treated here for an injury to his rump. Nicholson, still a few years away from breakout success, had to perform this sequence, staring at Ives' rear-end, as part of his Hollywood dues...!

We still aren't done spotting the stars, though. There's cutie pie singer Tommy Sands, who as was too often the case chewed the scenery to shreds as a sailor whose young daughter is killed before he has ever laid eyes on her.

And lookit...! A young James Coco in his movie debut, slimmer than you've likely ever seen him.

Below deck in the laundry room, an impromptu party gets way out of line.

Gautier's pants are painted on and many of the other guys' shirts are falling off.

Then there's the day that interim captain Gerald S. O'Laughlin relaxes some of the stringent rules and reinstates swimming off the side of the ship and the right to go shirtless on deck.

This announcement brings about all sorts of acrobatic cavorting from dancing to flips to who knows what...

One sailor gets so caught up in the frivolity that he grabs the pants pockets of Lindsey's dungarees and yanks them off.

This reveals one of Lindsey's bare ass cheeks with a tattoo on it! Raise your hand if you ever expected to see Goober's bare behind in a 1964 movie...!

Yes, Mr. Logan liked to celebrate the male form. I don't care how many times he was married.

Late in the proceedings, we meet a shipwreck survivor named Stretch, played by actor Robert Matek. This is his only credited role except for a guest part on The Wild Wild West, but he certainly made an impression in his shredded khakis!

Walker (along with new galpal Millie Perkins) has to perform an emergency appendectomy on the island, surrounded by natives, while being coached over the radio...! But I found Stretch more fascinating.

During this climactic situation, the sailors are all piled next to each other, listening to the play-by-play over the loudspeaker.

Depending on your point of view, this is either male bonding or toxic masculinity, but it's nevertheless appealing to the eyes as far as I'm concerned.

As good news comes their way, more celebration continues. Check out the tan line on the guy in the blue vest.


The End!