Thursday, November 16, 2023

Last Stops: "Mozambique" and Nassau

We've featured a certain actor over the years in multiple posts concerning swimsuits, hairy chests, bulges and the like. Recently, he popped up unexpectedly while I was looking for something unusual to watch and it has brought me to today's photo essay. Steve Cochran (who we affectionately refer to sometimes as "Steve Cockring!") was a husky, hunky bad boy who specialized in portraying tough guys, villains with sexual threat and other dark roles while simultaneously attempting to break out as a leading man. He succeeded to a point, mostly in low-budget flicks like The Beat Generation (1959) or Merle Oberon's warped romance Of Love and Desire (1963), but after so adeptly playing hard-boiled jerks, some audiences weren't having it. He was also one of Tinseltown's all-time womanizers, rarely missing out on the chance to bed down any of the choice, buxom babes there. (Barbara Payton, Mamie Van Doren and Jayne Mansfield are only a smattering of the gals who sampled his wares.) As the 1960s dawned, Cochran's movie career began to stall and he worked on television more often. But he did appear in Sam Peckinpah's The Deadly Companions (1961), the aforementioned Desire and then 1964's Mozambique.
Mozambique was produced by the rather notorious Harry Alan Towers, who had a highly prolific output of movies, often centering on exploitive topics. Generally low in budget, he could still usually attract a few names to his projects (often one star each from a variety of nations.) But as the years went by, the quality dwindled considerably. By the video era, he'd practically become a schlockmeister.

Ever the tough guy, Cochran was cast as an out of work pilot who suffers from PTSD following a crash. In the opening sequence, his clothing is splashed by a careless driver and he winds up arrested after later pummeling the guy.
Upon his release from jail, he's informed that a rather mysterious employer wants him to fly his private jet... in Mozambique, Africa, then a Portuguese colony. 

On the plane down, his discomfort at flying again is assuaged to some degree by his pretty seatmate, Vivi Bach.

Arriving at the estate of his new employer, he discovers that the man is dead! He now reports to the sinister-looking Martin Benson and the dead man's widow, Hildegarde Knef.

Among the business interests of Cochran's new bosses is a nightclub, which serves up a variety of exotic entertainment.

Also on the bill is Bach, who sings for her supper. (In real life, Bach married costar Dietmar Schönherr, shown watching her sing here. Their union lasted close to 50 years until her death.)

Knef is often on hand at this club, too. Here she achieves the seemingly impossible task of wearing a low-cut evening gown which reveals zero cleavage?

It turns out that this seedy club expects more than the standard entertainment from its staff. Gals are also expected to put out for various visitors! Bach evades her chosen seducer and is rescued by Cochran (though in some ways that is escaping a frying pan by landing in fire...)

Some of the acts have to be seem to be believed, including this chippie who gyrates around in some not-very-flattering briefs. Some of the best tables in the club seem to be reserved for other performers, who sit around chewing the fat in-between serving their sexual duties!

Cochran takes the private plane for a spin with Schönherr, but there is a nasty surprise in store...

Samuel Jackson wasn't the only one with snakes on a plane!

Cochran has his inexperienced fellow passenger fly the craft while he takes care of the cobra on board.

Well, there goes the upholstery...!

Knef, who was always a bit unusual-looking anyway, sports some crazed, over-wide eyelashes that seem to extend beyond the natural contours of her eyelids. These rival the ones that Janice from The Muppet Show had! She also has a healthy slathering of bubble gum pink lipstick on at all times. Of course, we wouldn't have it any other way...!

On occasion, Knef takes the floor herself at the nightclub. In this instance, she delivers a heartfelt German love song. We LOVED this necklace, by the way.

Meanwhile Bach has got some problems. She's been kidnapped by a wealthy Arab and taken to his mansion where a passel of ladies are getting her all prepped and ready for whatever duties she will be expected to perform.

Thankfully, Cochran is on the case. He tracks her down and gets her the hell out of there. As you can see, though the budget for this movie was low, the use of striking locations, both architecturally and natural (as you'll see in a moment), went a long way in putting it across. And I always love the sort of cinematography utilized here as well.

Cochran, Bach and Benson are off into the wild blue yonder in the plane, but...'s soon evident that the engine has been tampered with and they are on the verge of crashing at any moment!

After the resourceful Cochran manages to repair the craft, Bach informs him that she's located a lovely spot nearby where he can wash off the grease and grime.

Benson is wholly against this delay and pulls a gun in order to put a stop to it. But Cochran rightly contends that killing him will only mean that Benson will be stuck there since he cannot pilot the plane.

Thus, we're treated to the sight of Bach and Cochran in their underwear, trotting back to their clothes after a quick clean-up in the river.

This we were not expecting in a movie such as this.

Sure, Cochran had run around in an eye-popping swimsuit one year before in Of Love and Desire, but somehow this sequence still came as a surprise.

In the rather quick scene, we find that he's wearing Y-front, colored briefs.

Cochran was 47 at the time and it was not exactly the norm for men of that age to appear in such abbreviated costumes on screen. (55 year-old Burt Lancaster in The Swimmer, 1968, a notable - and welcome - exception!)

Cochran is at least as interested in drying Bach off as he is himself.

They are in no hurry to rejoin Benson back at the plane.

When they do finally head back to the craft, Cochran is sporting one of his signature bulges and Bach is sporting a Scarlett O'Hara "morning after" smile!

The cat out of the bag that these two are officially "doing it," there's then a bedroom love scene between them!

The dimly-lit room is brightened when a visitor pushes the door open and lets in a swath of light.

As Cochran rises to put on a robe, we can see that he's wearing some red briefs for the scene.

As non-explicit as this scene is, it still seems to be to be pushing the envelope for the standards of 1964 cinema - at least as far at the US was concerned. (As an aside, Cochran ran into some trouble while on location when he was accused of sleeping with the wife of a local jockey!)

The climax of the picture occurs around Victoria Falls. I was today years old when I found out that Victoria Falls is situated in this manner...! I thought it would be far more open on the opposite side versus the crevasse that's seen here!

As you may have guessed, Poseidon is obsessed with water, especially rushing water. So this segment of the movie was particularly interesting. No trick photography. No CGI. This is real actors at a real location involved in a chase scene.

Both Cochran and his costar Schönherr are seen scrambling along the edge of the opposing side, all the while being misted by the spray from the gargantuan waterfall.

It provides a really striking setting for the climax of the film.

It proceeds from there to a hair-raising chase across a massive bridge.

Is Mozambique a stunning, classic motion picture? No. But it has interesting locations, fun '60s clothing/hairstyles and - at 98 minutes - doesn't take a lot of time commitment to view. It's currently available in a very nice print on Tubi (free with occasional ads.)

This was the last time film-goers would see Cochran in color. But it wasn't his final released film. For that, we now turn to:

Tell Me in the Sunlight (1965) was Cochran's final foray on movie screens. He co-wrote it, directed it and starred in it. It was years in the making with a few stops and starts. But unfortunately would not live to see its release.

For this very low-budget film, Cochran went to Nassau in The Bahamas. There he crafted a vehicle for himself and his leading lady that ran close to two-hours long. However, after his untimely death, the movie say idle until his mother turned it over to a releasing company which trimmed (hack-sawed, in fact) more than 30 minutes from it and finally gave it a light release in 1967. (Cochran even co-wrote a mushy title song played over the credits and sung by lesser-known vocalist Darlene Paul.)

Say what you will, but Cochran knew what his audiences liked. That included plenty of beefy cleavage and pants that clung in all the right places. This is how we first see him in Sunlight.

He plays the a cargo shipper, docked in Nassau and looking for love in all the right places (such as the red light district!)

The first thing he does is rescue a young girl from a predatory older man. But later discovering that she wants to kill herself because she's unmarried and two months pregnant, he merely walks her home.

Back on the ship, his cohorts are up to their usual rowdy antics while he tries to relax in the bunk behind them. Check out the pants on the guy in the middle...!

Said guy comes over to Cochran's bunk, gives him the cigarette that he's been smoking (!) and encourages him not to give up on the night just yet.

Out he goes to carouse a bit more and he's spotted through an open window by a local barber.

The barber (do you recognize him?) offers to give Cochran a shave.

Cochran is on the fence about it, so the barber suggests that he flip a coin. If it's a head, he'll take the shave.

It's determined that he'll get the shave after all. Cochran is relieved to find out that the rather fey barber wants to shave his face and not something else...! (Okay, I made that up. But, man, the barber is very femme.)

Now is the time to tell you that the barber is played by one Jay Robinson. Robinson burst onto the scene in The Robe (1953) and a few resultant films before that sudden success led to some difficult behavior on sets and eventually a drug problem. This was his first on-screen work in half a dozen years and he'd not see another movie come his way for half a dozen more after filming this one. The twice-married father always came off as very homoerotic as far as I'm concerned, so this sequence has that element to it.

Cochran wants this all over with asap so that he can get back to what he wanted in the first place.

For two brief frames, both of them seen here for your perusal, we see what was lurking below the smock that was covering our guy during his treatment.

Directly after his shave, Cochran sees an accident occur in which a young boy is run down by a distracted driver. Emerging from the crowd to aid the kid is a lovely young lady in a trench coat. She's played by Shary Marshall.

Cochran escorts her back to where she was heading before the accident stopped her.

Turns out she's a local stripper! The name of the establishment in which she practices her ecdysiay, partially seen behind the band, is "Dirty Dick's!"

Considering how little the censors would allow Joan Collins to show when she did Seven Thieves in 1960, Marshall puts on quite a show here (when filming was done long prior to the 1965 completion of the movie.)

Having seen that there is a patron at the club who is especially fond of Marshall, Cochran nearly gives up on their scheduled rendezvous after the show, but she does show up and they head to her place.

The movie is careful to include plenty of shots of Cochran's clingy trousers as they stroll through the neighborhood.

Here, he is cock of the walk.

At her apartment, she has to climb on a chair in order to turn the light on. Meanwhile, his pants are liable to turn viewers on!

He's startle when she removes her makeup and reveals a far more natural look (she almost has a Three Days of the Condor, 1975, or Network, 1976, Faye Dunaway thing going on here.) As it happens, they do not wind up going to bed together. He sleeps on the couch after she drifts off.

Among the rough and tumble shipmates of his is Rockne Tarkington, who would go on to a pretty busy career as an actor.

He and the other guys are relentlessly crude about Marshall, not realizing that Cochran has a) not even slept with her and b) is actually starting to fall in love with her - a most unusual scenario for him.

Eventually Cochran has enough and knocks the towering Tarkington on his ass! (It looks like as they were filming - and perhaps re-filming - this moment, Tarkington's pants split!)

Eventually things settle down. But even the other sailor seems to be filling out his pants a lot, too!

There are a few misunderstandings between the (eventual) lovers and as things reach a head, Cochran drunkenly bursts into her apartment. We see in the silhouette behind her him removing his shoes and then pants (!) before he what used to be called "forces himself" on her. 

Marshall, who may or may not be familiar to you, began as a young girl in small film bits and in many Warner Brothers TV series. She showed up as a guest on many of the hottest 1960s series such as The Untouchables, The Fugitive, Gunsmoke, Perry Mason and The Wild Wild West. There were occasional movies, too, like Panic in the Year Zero! (1962) and Your Cheatin' Heart (1964), but after an arrest for fighting with a boyfriend, she was virtually stopped in her tracks. She wed a realtor and moved to Oregon where she remained mostly out of the spotlight. A stroke claimed her in 2014 at age 79. I must say I thought she was generally very good in this movie.

Awakening the next morning, Cochran can barely remember the night before.

Dazed upon first opening his eyes... doesn't take long for him to recall the way the prior night ended.

Neophyte director Cochran filmed two endings for what would emerge as a pretty troubled film. From what I understand, the distributor used the one he did not prefer. The movie is certainly not a sterling cinematic legacy, but he is good in it and one can see the sort of effect he was reaching for. Without thoughtful editing (some of the cuts are just blatantly obvious), it never stood a chance. It can be seen here or is also on YT, I believe.

This was the last glimpse that fans would see of Steve Cochran. While filming Mozambique, (his final work on screen, if not release) he acquired a lung infection, which he didn't have seen to properly. While scouting locations for his next project ("Captain O' Flynn"), he and three young females were on a boat that was caught in a storm. When one of the masts broke, he fell ill and died. The hapless craft with its petrified, helpless "crew," was discovered more than a week later, with the gals half starving. It was a dire end to the career of an actor who always strove for excellence in his work, no matter the budget.

Cochran was wed three times and the first time was to a young actress named Florence Lockwood. They worked together on several stage productions in the 1930s. They had one daughter, his only child, but following the 1946 divorce, he saw little of her. When she grew up and wed, a grandson was born, albeit after Cochran's death. That grandson grew up to be Alex Johns, a successful of animated material including Futurama. He was twice Emmy-nominated for his work. But, sadly, he was taken by an unnamed chronic disease in 2010 at only age 43.

After Cochran's demise, the negative for this photo was found on board the yacht among his belongings. It is likely one of the last photos of him. (No word as to whether this is one of the women who was on board, though she is unlikely to have been. The survivors were younger.) Prior to his unexpected death, he'd written a letter to his daughter, expressing his regret over not seeing as much of her as he ought to have and telling her that he loved her.


Dan said...

Sex just oozed out of his pores. Anyone else think, though, that toward the end he started to look like Bela Lugosi?

Gingerguy said...

Sexy guy. I love Tubi and will check this out. Have always wanted to see the Merle Oberon film too. The title makes me think of the hippie song,"Mozambique". I love all the crotch shots!

joel65913 said...

Hi Poseidon!

I have seen both latter-day efforts from the rough and tumble Mr. Cochran as well as Merle’s final opus. None of them were near the best pictures he was involved in, but all were entertaining in their ways. Mostly thanks to the burly and gruff charms of Steve, who at this point was starting to fray a bit around the edges because of his hard living lifestyle but still an intense and arresting screen presence.

Of the two I remember enjoying Mozambique more probably because it was in color and these sort of adventure flicks usually play out best that way.

His best showcase and apparently the film he poured the most of himself into is the little known but lovely “Come Next Spring” from 1956 where both he and especially Ann Sheridan give award level performances.

That final picture is an exceptionally fine example of him in his prime.

How tragic about his grandson! So young and talented. I did a little research on him and found a remembrance of him, sounded like he was a decent fellow. He was very attractive; you can definitely see the shadow of resemble between the two. He was one of five brothers so now I’m curious to see the other four and wonder if that family similarity passed down to all of them.

hsc said...

Somehow or another, I managed to avoid *any awareness whatsoever* of Steve Cochran until he was one of the full-page star photos in Paul Roen's first HIGH CAMP book back in the '90s. (Amazing, considering he's the type I like best.)

And even though I immediately liked what I saw, he's remained one of those performers I know through online photos and reviews-- like your posts-- rather than actually seeing his work. I'm embarrassed to admit I've only caught his appearance in a TWILIGHT ZONE episode!

Due to a combination of a work schedule that limits my free time (which goes mostly to the internet) and a partner who usually picks what we watch together and who finds most old movies tedious, I have a *LOT* of "I'll EVENTUALLY get around to watching this one" movies on a "bucket list!"

(Maybe when-- *IF!*-- I finally retire... )

That's why this blog is SUCH a treasure for me! It's like a quick, condensed vicarious experience of these movies-- and I'm sure in many cases is *more* enjoyable than actually watching the films themselves would be!

I really enjoyed this look at Steve Cochran's last two films, since I had heard about his sad ending which came not long after these were made.

(I'm amazed that someone hasn't attempted to cover that horrible story in a film, the way George Reeves' death was covered in HOLLYWOODLAND. I guess Cochran is just too obscure now.)

I'm trying to remember if you've covered one of Steve Cochran's odder roles, and I don't see it listed by title in the "Poseidon's Subjects" list.

But SLANDER (1957)-- hootily covered in that Paul Roen book as well as in BAD MOVIES WE *LOVE*-- sounds like the type of thing that would go over well with your special "treatment," even if Steve Cochran likely stays fully overed the whole time.

He's going against his usual type, playing a character based loosely (but obviously) on Robert Harrison of CONFIDENTIAL magazine who's going after Van Johnson, a kiddie show host with a secret past, destroying his happy marriage with Ann Blyth and causing tragedy. I'm not sure if it fully lives up to its potential, but I'm sure it'd still be "gold" in your hands.

Anyway, thanks for this *great* look at Steve Cochran, and for all you do, Poseidon! Love to all and be safe and well, everyone!

Poseidon3 said...

Dan, believe it or not, it did sort of cross my mind! Their heads were of a similar shape and the slicked back hair was similar. (Someone on remarked on Cochran's "badly thinning" hair in "Mozambique." We should all be so lucky at 47!) Steve's slightly unruly eyebrows also aligned with Lugosi's deliberately creepy ones. ;-)

Gingerguy, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE "Of Love and Desire." It's so loony, but has great location atmosphere and Steve is so sexy in it. And, for me, Merle is always worth watching. She's so unusual and was always hell-bent on looking incredible. Get thee to the link asap! ---> (TCM ran a better print than this, but it's not TOO bad.)

joel65913, I'm sure it was just a momentary lapse, but Merle made ANOTHER film after "Of Love and Desire," the crazed "Interval!" I agree with you about preferring color. I just love the way the people and places were lit by the cameramen of the 1960s. I have been wanting to (and meaning to!) see "Come Next Spring." It sounds like it is really good and my sort of movie. I also felt that you could see some of Steve shining through in the grandson... Thanks!!

Donald Lam said...

Hello, Poseidon--

Another informative and entertaining commentary--this time about the ever sultry and seductive Steve Cockring. He and Merle were wonderful in "Of Love and Desire"--one wonders if she sampled his charms, but she seemed too demure and proper for such naughtiness. I'm glad that you've discovered is a bottomless treasure trove of camp classics, isn't it? Have you seen his pairing with Miss Virginia Mayo "She's Back on Broadway"? It is on just waiting for you! While you're there, I also think you'll adore "Entertaining Mr Sloane" from 1970. Cheers and thank you for all of your hard work.

Poseidon3 said...

Hi, Donald, and thanks for commenting! Oh, I think Ms. Merle did partake. She had a fabulously wealthy husband, but I don't know how personally satisfying a marriage it was. (She left him for Robert Wolders in 1973 in any case.) When Steve died, she tried to press local officials into investigating the whole shocking mess as foul play, though really it was more of his neglect of a health concern. Thanks again for the suggestions, too. (I noticed that the irritating pop-up screen which used to occur on for non-members seems to be gone now? At least it has been for me lately, thank goodness!) :-)

Unknown said...

Cochran began his film career under contract to legendary producer Sam Goldwyn, which led to small supporting role in 1947's Best Picture Oscar winning classic The Best Years of Our Lives, playing the other man to Virginia Mayo's promiscuous wife. Believe they also worked together in Jimmy Cagney's last gangster role, playing a psychotic in also classic White Heat, with its famous & literally explosive climax.