Sunday, July 31, 2022

Poseidon Quickies: "Truckin' " Along

Somehow, maybe even against my will, I've been caught up in several drive-in level 1970s flicks, most of them about mountain distilleries! (Like Moonshine County Express and Whiskey Mountain, both 1977.) Along similar lines, I stumbled into the quite atrocious Truckin' Man (1975), which, after six months, was re-titled Trucker's Woman in order to draw in a broader audience. A homegrown production, filmed in Florence, South Carolina and written by a resident there who generated several movies of this ilk, I was surprised to find a few notables sprinkled in the cast. (Many of the players were local residents, making their "acting" debuts.) As this is a "Quickie," I'm only touching on a few points. Even those may not interest you! LOL You may be thankful I didn't delve further into the movie...

Almost all of Truckin' Man is lit with the subtle ambiance of an all-night supermarket. The story concerns this man, Michael Hawkins, who plays a college student (at 37!) who comes home when his semi-driving father dies in an "accident." He keeps the trucking business going while also discovering that his old man may have been deliberately killed by a competitor.

Hawkins also discovers this hot young lady Mary Cannon. She spends virtually the entire movie in this frosted, plastic wig.

Even in the shower!

Cannon is presumably who the distributors were referring to when they re-dubbed the film Trucker's Woman. Here, she's resisting the attention of Hawkins, who has followed her from the diner to her motel room (a Ramada Inn!)

Eventually he barges in, tosses her around a little and then she gives in to his torrid advances. Note the string of nylon "hair" hanging near her neck! I am using a lot of quotation marks in this brief post!

These two indulge in some of the most awkward kissing I have ever witnessed on screen. His lips never open or really even move, so she has to do most of the work, including hooking on to unusual portions of his mouth!

A later love scene with a different actress is also uncomfortable and icky. In this one, the two share a cigarette before kissing and a strand of spittle is seen as their lips part!

It may be difficult to spot, but it is there.

I'm not finished with Hawkins just yet, but I'm going to move on for the moment to someone else.

On the left here is a man named Doddles Weaver. Weaver was a comic actor who found success on radio, the stage and in movies from the mid-1930s on.

His "comedy" in this film is something beyond excruciating... Not all routines that worked in the '30s & '40s translated through the '70s. Weaver was the younger brother of high-ranking NBC television executive Pat Weaver, whose daughter Susan later gained considerable fame as... Sigourney Weaver! Doodles Weaver, having grappled with an alcohol problem and enduring physical pain in his later years, took his own life

The husky auto mechanic that Weaver is speaking to above is also someone of note. One of the villains of the piece, it is he who tampered with Hawkins' father's semi and who also does a number on Hawkins' truck.

At one point we're treated to a love scene between him and a nude blonde.

She apparently felt that a nice, stiff belt of booze was in order! If you haven't recognized this guy yet,

This may help. The character of Benny Stulwicz from L.A. Law was a showy part. The mentally-disabled character figured into story lines across a seven year period.

Larry Drake won two Emmys and was nominated for a third as Benny. (His costar Jimmy Smits won that third time.) Drake also appeared in Darkman (1990) and many other TV shows and movies.

At one point in the movie, Drake has finally been caught up with for his horrible actions.

Hawkins grabs a rifle and takes aim at his nemesis.

Drake takes a bullet in the leg as he's trying to escape and falls to the ground.

As he careens to the ground, we find that he has split his pants (which, if you look at the prior photo, were raggedly in this area to start with) and the camera spots his inner thigh and (thankfully!) his jockey shorts! Drake worked up through the late-2000s, but was discovered dead in 2016. It was determined to have been cancer of the blood. He was 66.

Now back to Hawkins. You know what a completest I am. He takes a shower in the movie and I nearly always document such instances here.

It's the morning after he has seduced Cannon and he's chatting with her from the shower as she's packing to leave in the main room.

He wants her to wait (and, in fact, doesn't even know her full name!), but she's ready to roll.

He calls to her, but she's heading out.

Aggravated, he decides to leave the shower and chase after her.

I have been known to do towel posts, too, so this also qualifies on that score!

Finding that she's departed the motel room, he continues to chase after her.

As he trots out the door to her convertible, he barely has on more than a large diaper.

She has no intention of hanging around.

He asks her how she can just leave him like this...

...which prompts her to say that she is actually going to leave him like THIS, and promptly yanks off his towel and begins to speed off!

In a nearby room, an old woman is peering out into the parking lot and tells her husband that she thinks she just saw a "streaker!"

In a nod to a big hit song of the day ("The Streak" by Ray Stevens), the woman's name is, of course, Ethel.

This scene is edited very swiftly and carefully, to avoid any nudity on Hawkins' behalf.

But there is this moment where he backs into the room again, using those dastardly blue-green curtains as his only protection against immodesty.

I suspect that not too many of you are overly familiar with Michael Hawkins. He wasn't a household name for most, but prior to this he'd enjoyed featured roles on several soap operas from As the World Turns to Love is a Many Splendored Thing to The Doctors to How to Survive a Marriage.

This same year (1975), he was handed another principal role on another soap.

He was cast as Frank Ryan, one of the key members of the central family of Ryan's Hope. Unfortunately, the wheels were starting to come off. He was battling an alcohol addiction and had trouble memorizing his lines. He was fired at the end of the show's first year. After that, it would chiefly be bit roles in movies from The Amityville Horror (1979), Mommie Dearest (as a Pepsi executive) and Looker (both 1981.) He hasn't acted on screen at all since 1988.

He'd been married since 1966 to his wife Mary Jo, a very successful casting director, but that also came to an end in 1976. His life careened into one of unemployment or menial jobs, manic-depression and substance abuse. Their little tree-hugging son went to live with his mother and when she reverted to her maiden name, the child took that as well.

Mary Jo's maiden name was Slater and her son Christian went on to a highly-successful movie career. Christian, despite his busy in-demand career, had his own battles with alcohol and drugs, but managed to survive it.

Not only did Slater pop-up briefly on Ryan's Hope (long after his father's departure), but one of his early roles came on L.A. Law, too, though it was an episode in which Drake didn't appear. The father and son were estranged for years and at one point Hawkins was suing Slater for a hefty sum. However, more recently, Slater has relayed that they've been in contact, rebuilding some sort of relationship. The father is 83 while the son is now 52.

I will leave you with this one last bit of lunacy... Around the 1:09 mark of the film, Hawkins is checking the brake lines of his semi, following a near accident. For what's probably less than a second, a shot featuring a pepperoni pizza suddenly appears!! It's believed that perhaps it was meant to instill subliminal hunger to the drive-in crowd and help form a stampede to the snack counter...!

I did nothing to help relieve this shot of it's scratches, dirt and other anomalies. What a scream...! I think you've probably all had your share of cheese by this point. Till next time.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Let's See What's "Left"

Maybe a more apt title for this post would be the pun Natalie Wood came up with for her old Tab Hunter opus The Girl He Left Behind (1956) - She dubbed it, "The Girl with the Left Behind!" As the mid-1960s dawned, one-time top leading lady Kim Novak found herself struggling to land a hit movie. She worked in saucy comedies like Boys Night Out and Kiss Me, Stupid (both 1964), which were met with a level of derision, and "serious" films that just didn't work like Of Human Bondage (1964) and The Legend of Lylah Clare (1968.) Though she was giving her all in the bloated comedy The Great Bank Robbery (1969), she wasn't seen on the big screen again for 5 years. Actually, she wasn't seen on any screen after that until 1973 - That was when she made her television movie debut in The Third Girl from the Left. It's a character study about a 36 year-old (Novak was 40) showgirl at a career (and life) crossroads. Regardless of its merits, fans of the actress can not afford to miss this one.

Granted, she's not utterly bare-skinned here, but the movie kicks off with a full-face shot of a nearly cosmetic-free Miss Novak.

Next comes the application of highlighter under the eyes and in the creases.

Pressed powder follows.

Next it's time for the brows

Getting closer to the finished product.

The tiara and wig are one...!

Ready for action!

Stage manager Michael Conrad announces that the gals are almost late for their number as Novak gets a hand with the final touches of her costume.

Though she has no lines in the finished movie, this lady did receive billing in the credits for what amounts to a moment on screen. It's Anne Ramsey (later to be famous for Throw Momma from the Train, 1987.)

Novak's dance takes place in a New York club that seems a bit past its glory days. That's really a major theme of the movie, in fact.

I don't want to burst anyone's bubble, but Busby Berkeley it ain't...!

Did Novak have to arm wrestle Barbara Eden in order to win this part?

At a ringside table are Novak's boyfriend Tony Curtis (center) and his associates. Far left is his right-hand man George Furth. On the right is third banana Louis Guss. (Some of you may remember him from a later episode of The Golden Girls in which his terminally ill wife was trying to set him up with Sophia.)

There she is, the third girl from the left!

After the pulse-pounding performance, Novak calls Curtis from backstage. He's about to take off for Vegas and she's eager to see him before he leaves. She tells him that tonight is special.

He tells her it's better if he calls her from the airport and puts her off...

Meanwhile, the club owner is pressing Conrad to break some bad news to Novak. Conrad manages to put all that off for one day because...'s Novak's birthday! The gals in the dance troupe have gotten her a chocolate cake (complete with one dilly of a candle shoved into it!)

Returning to her well-appointed apartment, she soon finds that Curtis was only pulling her leg about leaving town without seeing her. He's on site with a new gift for her. He models it, even!

Actually, he's arranged a small surprise party for her, mostly made up of his minions. Turns out, he's a famous lounge singer (!) and Novak's expression as he croons away sure is more accepting than the one I had while listening through the cracks of my fingers over my ears...!

The script of this movie was penned by Dory Previn and it was she who wrote the songs, too. Curtis is no Jerry Vale, let me tell you, and the melody isn't exactly basic. And while Previn can carry a tune, her rendition of the movie's theme song is used over and over again (think Valley of the Dolls, 1967, for whose songs she wrote the lyrics!)

In the middle of Curtis' number, a delivery of snacks and booze arrives. The delivery man says it's to be billed to Curtis' account. (Remarkably enough, Novak is not "kept." This is her apartment paid for with her own money.)

Michael Brandon plays the delivery guy. He's insulted by Curtis' attempt to grandiosely over-tip him and refers to Novak as an "endangered species."

Novak opts out of seeing Curtis off at the airport, though his whole entourage is headed there. He wants her to come with him to Vegas, but she can't leave her job at the club. She's dance captain. When Curtis refers to their 8 years together, she has to point out that it's been 13...

Heavy is the head that wears the crown...

Rethinking the situation, Novak heads out to the airport to see Curtis off. She wants Curtis to marry her, but there's always something that keeps it from happening.

Thus, once again, they're separated and their future is cloudy.

In a rather wild plot contrivance, Brandon has followed Novak to the airport and is there to escort her home after the disappointment with Curtis. It seems she is well known enough in town to have captured his attention and she's a sort of fantasy girl for him.

As they converse, we find that he - at 23 - is a little old to be delivering groceries which, given her precarious situation, gives them something in common. He wants to take her out, but she is reticent.

Novak has all the gals together for rehearsal, but she's about to be handed a huge disappointment.

Conrad (who many of you may recall from the later Hill St. Blues) informs her that she is no longer going to be featured in the front row!

She wordlessly accedes to his request, but is noticeably affected by it.

Later in the dressing room, a shell-shocked Novak can barely apply her makeup and isn't able to put two words together.

One of her antagonists arrives late and announces that she's giving her notice (even after being given Novak's front row slot) because she's going on the road with the show "Sugar." (Trivia/In-Joke: Sugar was the musicalization of Curtis' smash movie Some Like It Hot, 1959!)

This is enough to send her running into the owner's (shabby) office to plead her case, but he's having none of it. He accuses her of not having made any plans for the future. (A huge portrait of a younger Novak looms in the background.)

Out in Vegas, the tuneless Curtis is a smash. And the man he's filling in for is still under the weather, so he's being held over for more shows.

Curtis is also a hit with Barbi Bimbo Benton, with whom he's been canoodling while playing Sin City.

A distraught Novak calls him for moral support and to get him back home, but he informs her that he'll be remaining in Vegas for a while yet.

Despite her protests, Brandon convinces her to go out with him. He takes her to a swap meet, where top honors go to whoever brings the most camp piece of vintage material to the party.

As Novak (hilariously) grooves out in her hip-huggers to the strands of a nearby guitar, she has no clue that Brandon has won first place at the party... for bringing HER to it!

Curtis is torn. He loves Novak, but can't work out their dynamic enough to marry her. This being 1973, some things couldn't be spelled out too explicitly, but if I am understanding it correctly, he instructs Furth to...

...head into the bedroom and get it on with Benton because, after his phone call with Novak and further inability to get her on the phone, he's just not up to it!

Brandon and Novak are discovering a lot of common ground. He's got a full-ride college scholarship, but has dropped out! She urges him to go back. She reveals some of her disenchantment with life.

In line with the theme of emotional erosion and decay, they stroll near destructed buildings and walk amidst garbage on the streets, playfully analyzing some of it. 

Curtis finally is able to get through to her on the phone. (Note the framing of this shot is similar to the one with Novak calling him from backstage at the club.)

She's ready to ditch her job and come to Vegas to be with him, but in his usual push-pull way, he tells her to stay put (and to be near a phone when he wishes to call her again!) If she wasn't down before, she surely is now...

...But Brandon has come up to make a special delivery. This time with no groceries in hand!

She's now worn down enough to stop fending him off.

The next morning, Brandon looks for his t-shirt as a still fragile Novak asks if he really has to go.

He explains that he has to go to his job, such as it is.

She declares that, outside of Curtis, there hasn't been anyone else in her bed.

There's a remarkable sense of intimacy between them in this scene as she pulls up his shirt and strokes his back. (The two were a couple in real life at the time!) This does the trick, though, because he opts to spend the day with her instead of with brown boxes of beer and Wonder bread.

They head out for an afternoon of ice skating where Novak comes in second in the Mrs. Claus lookalike contest! (Okay... I made that part up.)

Ultimately, they plop down on the ice and hold a philosophical conversation while the rest of NYC tries to skate around them on their ankles...

"David, why is it that some old things are called camp and other old things are called antiques?" His answer" "Time. You dig up something in ten years it's funny."

"You resurrect the same old piece of junk in a hundred, it's revered. Time."

This May-December-ish relationship is beginning to really mean something. To both of them.

Curtis' gig has been cut short by a day, so he's preparing to depart. Benton wants to leave with him, but he prefers to kiss her off with a couple of hundreds. He intends to head back and marry Novak.

In exchange for the money, which Furth doles out, Benton apparently has to service Guss, who's seated in the background!

Novak has inherited her boy toy's t-shirt and I think we can all agree that she fills it out quite a bit better! The forecast? Cloudy with a chance of scattered nipples. They debate the merits of Curtis while preparing dinner.

As she admittedly can't even boil water, Brandon takes her in hand and instructs her very specifically on how he likes his salad to be tossed...

She's still on him to go back to school and complete his formal education. He will only go back to school if she opts to come with him!

Curtis heads to the club only to be told that Novak has failed to show up for work that night. Her resident rival can hardly wait to inform him that she was spotted leaving the night before with young Brandon.

Brandon is making plans to return to school, which prompts Novak to suggest that she might take some classes herself. She reveals that she has done some painting, including one that hangs in her bedroom.

Novak painted prolifically in real life. This doesn't necessarily resemble her typical style, but it's possible that it's one of hers as it's given ample attention in the movie. 

She claims that even she doesn't know what the painting means, but he deems it beautiful.

As Dieter from Sprockets used to say: "Would you like to touch my monkey?"

There is some bad news on the horizon... Curtis is on his way up to Novak's apartment!

She does everything she can think of to prevent him from heading to her bedroom, but he heads into the kitchen and sees remnant of the dinner for two (which she couldn't have cooked.)

Before he finally peeks into the bedroom, she announces that she is leaving him. An incredulous Curtis wonders what big name it would take to have her brush him aside.

She expresses her distress over having all the troubles of a marriage for 13 years, but with none of its privileges. She asks if he ever thought she might want a home or a baby, to which he tells her she has a baby now! He just needs an occasional walk in his carriage.

Brandon tells her he'll be back for her in an hour. However, with doubts about how he won the swap meet and allowed her to be unknowingly humiliated, she opts to go to the club and dance instead.

In an ironic twist, after all the hubbub over placement in the line, she's informed that the place is going topless (!) and that there won't be any need for the current gals anyway. (So none of these chicks were willing to show a few more inches of boob in order to keep a job?)

Next, as she's about to go on, Curtis has taken the stage and plans to humiliate her and her young beau, who's also taken a seat in the front row! I'm going to bow out of the recap at this point, lest I spoil the ending of this, but there is still a pretty good heap of drama yet to come.

There is also the occasional dollop of humor, intentional (as in one more sequence in her kitchen) and unintentional (as in this one, where she keeps rhythmically grasping a telescope which is nestled between her ample bosom!)

Novak's career on screen was sporadic by this time. A devastating mudslide had led her to leave her home near Hollywood and relocate to Big Sur. (Later she moved even further away, to Oregon.) Thus, she was generally only lured back to the screen whenever she wished to partake in something. She made a handful of movie appearances, took part in the glitzy miniseries Malibu (where is this now?!) and notably popped up on Falcon Crest for a spell. A highly contentious experience during Liebestraum (1991) caused her to give up acting for good, though she did reemerge as an interview subject years later, to reflect on her difficult times as an actress and to shed light on some of her more famous movies, Vertigo (1958), in particular. 89 now, she continues to paint and has had her work exhibited on occasion. 

One of Novak's late-career movies was the enjoyably catty Agatha Christie mystery The Mirror Crack'd (1980), which reunited her with Curtis. After Curtis' death, Novak relayed that she felt he once drugged her drink in the late-1950s, after which she woke up naked and confused! Nonetheless, she costarred with him twice, years afterward.

As a hot-shot star with ego to spare, Curtis didn't have to dig all that deep to essay his role. After a knockabout childhood, riddled with poverty and misfortune, he joined the US Navy during WWII. The GI Bill allowed him to attend acting school, which ultimately led to stage work and, by 1949, movie work. After colorful adventure movies, he segued into serious fare and then to wacky comedies (some of which didn't include many laughs.) He was Oscar-nominated for The Defiant Ones (1958), but lost to David Niven in Separate Tables. By 1970, his movie career was petering out - some of it due to his substance abuse and some of it due to the material. He did the syndicated spy series The Persuaders! just before this project. He was able to rebound and star or costar in further features, but continued to work on TV as well. Like Novak, he became highly interested in painting. His final screen role came in 2008 and he passed away of cardiopulmonary issues in 2010 at age 85.

Brandon attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and proceeded to the stage in 1967. Throughout his career, he has continued to work on stage, be it London's West End, Broadway or elsewhere. Debuting in the movies and on TV in 1969, he soon won the role of the young groom in the hit comedy Lovers and Other Strangers (1970.) A prolific TV and movie career followed, including films made overseas. In 1976, he wed Lindsay Wagner though they were divorced by 1979. Meeting Glynis Barber during the British series Dempsey & Makepeace, they were married in 1989 and remain so to this day. Much of his work since then has been in British projects. He's long been the voice of the Narrator for Thomas & Friends, a hit animated children's show. He continues to act today at 77.

Furth earned a bachelors degree in Speech, which is ironic as he so often played stammering, stuttering or otherwise discombobulated characters over his long career. He acted on Broadway and collaborated with Stephen Sondheim on what eventually emerged as the musical "Company," netting him a Tony Award. He performed countless TV and movie roles, often with small roles in big hits such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), Blazing Saddles (1974), Shampoo (1975) and Oh God! (1975.) He's a member of the Disaster Movie Club for his role as a skittish, selfish passenger in Airport '77 (1977.) Furth passed away of a lung infection in 2008 at age 75, though he had generally retired one decade prior.

Well-known as the girlfriend of Hugh Hefner from 1969 to 1976, Benton also appeared several times in his legendary magazine Playboy and helped host his TV show Playboy After Dark. This telefilm was, in fact, produced by Playboy Productions, so I doubt there was much discussion over who played Benton's part! One infamous exchange of theirs occurred when he asked the 18 year-old out and she said she'd never dated anyone over 24. 42 year-old Hefner replied, "That's all right. Neither have I!" To her credit, she parlayed her 15 minutes of fame with Hef into a very busy TV career which included Hee Haw and many guest roles on most of the hot series of the 1970s & '80s. Having wed a real estate developer in 1979, she left the acting profession upon the birth of their first child in 1986 (a second followed in 1988.) She is, quite unbelievably, 72 now. As a kid, I positively adored her and always looked forward to her being on favorite shows of mine.

There was a time when it became something of an event for a strictly cinematic performer to work on TV. And this is a real showcase for Miss Novak. There was often, if not always, an underlying melancholy quality to her, sometimes a haunted feeling even, and that is quite front and center in this project. As I noted at the beginning of the post, fans of hers have to see it.

A reasonable copy of the movie can be seen here, if going after the pressed-to-order DVD isn't something you wish to pursue. (I didn't. I suspect the picture quality is greater through that route.)