Category: The Bit I Like More Than Maybe I Should

The Bit I Like More Than Maybe I Should #5: Record, Meet Match

Strait-Jacket (William Castle, 1964)

The William Castle Collection has been recently released on DVD by Sony, reminding me of a bit in Strait-Jacket that I enjoy to an indefensible level.

Joan Crawford – our Joan, All-American Joan, self-debasing as a first instinct Joan – plays Lucy Harbin, a woman released from the nut house twenty years after chopping her philandering husband to death. The film chronicles Lucy’s perilous attempts to reintegrate with her family and reclaim a normal life, free of axe murders. She’s still at least a little nutters, chipper and zestful one moment, nervous and depressed the next.

Any resemblance between this film and Psycho 2 is completely predictable.


Joan happily taps in time to a dance record.




She sashays over for a cigarette, bopping to the beat.



She manages to fumble out a cancer stick, but fails to get a match to light on the cup in front of her. No matter, she slides back over to the record player…



…and strikes it on the spinning record, knocking the needle off and stopping the music. She scarcely notices.




Sixty-something year old Joan flashes a lot of leg at her visitor.


Why not some knitting? While holding the cigarette? What don’t I love about this?




Records, matches, ciggies, knitting. Joan’s a national treasure, and I don’t want to hear any more about it.

The Bit I Like More Than Maybe I Should #4

The 1,000 Eyes Of Dr. Mabuse (Fritz Lang, 1960)

A Fugue In Nicotine…


Smoke. Smokety-smoke smoke smoke.


Puff puff, smoke, draaag.

It’s as if Lang knew that this was to be the last film he’d ever make, realized he hadn’t publicized cancer sticks as much as he’d meant to when he was just starting out, and decided to make up for it in one nicotine-infested scene.


Look at all the smoking paraphernalia on the desk! Ashtrays for everybody!


Sometimes the smoke thoroughly engulfs entire heads.


Sometimes lovely little smoke rings waft across.


The fellow on the left…he’s smoking when the scene starts, and I do believe he lights up two more before this meeting is done.


So enjoy, you chain-smoking Teutons! All except the white-haired guy on the right – he doesn’t smoke, doesn’t light up, doesn’t even condescend to casually brandish even one ciggy!

Do you think he feels like less of a man than his colleagues? Or just maybe he has some inkling of what lung cancer’s all about, and thinks he’s the smart one? Enjoy your roomful of solid secondhand smoke!

You know, Lang had a reputation as a guy not afraid of multiple takes and substantial fiddling with his setups. They probably had to burn a lot more smokes that day than are apparent in the end product. I wonder if a few of the cast/crew didn’t end up turning a little green before all this was over.

Destructible Crocodile

Destructible Man, that formidable blog devoted to cinematic dummy violence, has initiated a blogathon for March focused on identifying animal dummy deaths. The proprietors there, the Flying Maciste Brothers, have invited others to make their own posting contributions, with the rule that comedies should be avoided (comedy pet dummy shenanigans being too easy a target I suspect – otherwise it might end up nothing but Ace Ventura caps).

I’ll confess it was a bit of a conundrum at first – all the possibilites I thought of didn’t seem to involve the dummy actually “dying”. I finally hit on a sentimental favorite – Johnny Weissmuller as Tarzan was wont to carve up a fair few rubber animals in his day, none so happy-smile producing for me as his epic tumble with a crocodile in Tarzan and His Mate. It’s an oldie but a goodie, and I hope not too obvious to make mention of.

Maureen O’Sullivan, aka Jane Parker, has jumped into the water to avoid a menacing snake in a tree. Pretty much instantly, this croc slips into the water to have a heart-to-heart with her. I lost count of how many jungle critters took a run at Jane in this flick, and that is no small part of its appeal. This may be the only shot of a real croc in the whole sequence.
She calls up to Johnny, and we get The Yell. He’s on his way!
Jane tries to swim away but is intercepted by Wally Wally Crocodile. This is, as every giddy consumer of the complete That’s Entertainment! DVD set knows, the same MGM tank that Esther Williams cavorted in a decade or so later, totally sans crocs. The first dummy, a full scale one, makes it’s appearance.
Now we go to double exposure, Jane swimming alone in her tank overlaid with a second exposure of a miniature model croc flitting about.
Full scale model again, and its a mechanical one – it spins and spins and spins like a self-basting chicken on the world’s fastest rotisserie.
Johnny hits the water. He really does show off those Olympic champion swimming skills, he gets a few seconds of screen time just to show how fast he can motor across the water surface.
Boy meets dummy. Fill in your own joke.
Jane, hearing over the loudspeaker that Adult Swim is over, gets out of the pool. Tarzan stays behind for protracted dummy wrasslin’.
I imagine this is all meant to be thrilling, but I suspect that then as now it just looks like fun. Wild Waves park should consider installing a wicked-fast rotating croc dummy feature, the kids’d dig it.
More double exposure, as the mini-puppet croc appears to attack real life Johnny.
Full on puppet action! Ride ‘im, naked GI Joe doll! Or is “action figure” the politically correct term?
Dummy death time. The full scale model takes a stabbing.
Blood packs! We have blood packs! The blood cloud eventually expands to encompass both actor and dummy. Tarzan emerges from the water unscathed.

OK, that’s my dummy death contribution. Macistes can stop here, because I’m about to break their two rules: A dummy death from a comedy, and a dummy that has no violence perpetrated on it at all.

There is no way I’m letting this topic go by without basking in the reflected glory of the greatest rubber shark evah.
Who would want to repel this shark? Love it, take it to your bosom. Stop punching it in the snout Batman. It’s adorable, damn it!
Who were those redneck talk show characters John Candy and Joe Flaherty did on SCTV? They’d always end by blowing up their guest and declaring that they “Blowed up good!” Well this shark doesn’t blow up good – it blows up great.

Lastly, a dummy that suffers no dummy violence at all, unless you count being dumped on a table in front of Claude Rains violent. This is virtually a throwaway, but its always been one of my favorite cinematic animal dummys, from The Adventures of Robin Hood:

There’s no violence against the deer, seeing as how it’s already dead and all, but that doesn’t mean it can’t dole out the violence! Robin casually lays out a couple of guards just by swinging that bad boy around. As Joe Bob Briggs might call it, Deer Fu!
Sure, it’s all jaunty smiles and dummy deers now, but it’ll all come to bloodshed soon enough. Thankfully, this proud animal carcass is not desecrated.

The Bit I Like More Than Maybe I Should #3

The Apache Dance scene, from Charlie Chan In Paris (1935):

The apache dance is downmarket Parisian in origin, named after gangs of the time. According to Wikipedia, that Keeper of Truth, some say it is an interpretive dance version of a conversation between a prostitute and her pimp. Maybe – it’s definitely an interpretive dance of being a spectacular jerk. If you called it “The Misogyinist Dance” you wouldn’t be far off.

Charlie Chan In Paris is a pretty dreary entry in the Fox series of adventures of the Chinese detective starring Warner Oland, as dull as any I’ve yet seen (many are quite fun). It does have Erik Rhodes, one of the very fruitiest of 30s actors, and early on it features an alarming Apache Dance. Other than that, it sort of puts me to sleep. So let’s go to the dance!

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Charlie and some Paris friends go to a nightclub. He’s gone along because an undercover operative who works as a dancer there has a message to slip him. Charlie makes eye contact with her.

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The girl sees Charlie, and then her act begins. Let the violent girl-tossing begin!

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Some creepy dude in a ludicrous disguise watches from a back window of the joint, the dancers silhouetted through frosted glass.

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Just dumping a girl on the ground is not a move you see much of. Dancing With The Stars should look into it.

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Ok I think the overhead shot is a helicopter ride, and then when he’s spinning her by an arm and leg, that’s an airplane ride, right? If she forgot to wear panties, this is where it would be a big problem.

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This is how I remember most airplane rides ending when I was a kid.

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After you’ve flung a girl across the floor, just to make sure she knows who’s boss, lift up her foot and strike a match for your ciggy off her shoe. Since smoking makes you look cool, it’s probably about time in the dance to light up anyway.

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When she crawls after you, give her a kick in the face! Ah just kidding around…haul her back up.

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Flip her, toss her, make sure she lands awkwardly in the crowd. Honestly, the difference between this and an uneven bar fight is hardly worth mentioning.

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One last overhead lift, and then we end the way all classical dances and barfights do – by heaving the girl feet first out a glass window. The crowd applauds, knowing klassy Paris culture when they see it.

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She lands as she must after every performance (what a window bill this place must have!), on a cot outside. Only tonight, the groupie waiting is the murdering kind.

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Knife is thrown, inside her scream is heard. Charlie and the crowd jump up. I think it’s very sweet that her dance partner, having just concluded artistically beating the crap out of her, runs out to hold her quite tenderly as she dies.

And that folks, is how you do the Apache Dance!

The Bit I Like More Than Maybe I Should #2

The song “It’s Legal”, from Beat Girl (Greville, 1959)

This is a British film – if it were American, I’d call it a J.D. film, I don’t know if the same term holds over there. I know these days they certainly don’t call such kids Juvvies over there, they call them ASBOs.
The whole film deserves a post of its own, and I hope to come back to it some day, but for now I’ll mention one part: the song “It’s Legal”.

The music is by John Barry. This would be the multiple academy award winning John Barry. Goldfinger, Born Free, etc. That John Barry. This was his first movie work. There are a few performed songs in it, most by heartthrob Adam Faith, who plays one of the young toughs. The song, It’s Legal, however, is performed by Shirley Anne Field, a supporting actress in the film. She had a nice little career, especially in the 60s, with important roles in things like Alfie and Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. But it’s not like she went on to cut more records – she’s not a pro singer. She acts like someone who’s singing more than just simply singing, if you know what I mean. She delivers it with more than a touch of Marilyn Monroe-esque breathlessness. And like a Marilyn song, it’s at least half-silly before she even opens her mouth.

The kids are all hangin’ around someone’s house, having a makeout and slowdance party. Adam Faith, on the floor, has an idea. He calls out to Shirley and orders her to give ’em a song.
Shirley’s rolling around on top of some dude on the couch, but pulls away upon receipt of orders. She wanders to the center of the room, looking a bit stoned.
Sample lyric:
Darlin’ hold me close to you
There ain’t a thing that they can do
It’s legal…
It’s legal…

Such bad kids!

Adam picks up his guitar and adds accompaniment.
Good job shaving your pits this morning, Shirley!

Look, I can’t exactly tell you why I like this as much as I do. I’m fond of the absurd, and that’s right about where we are. These kids are about the right age, and some actual dangerous behavior does break out, but these troubled teens are still about as genuine as Frankie and Annette. I’m vexed to find this scene isn’t available on Youtube, but the opening music/credits are, and they do a pretty fair job of conveying the attitude. Enjoy!

The Bit I Like More Than Maybe I Should #1

Public Enemy (Wellman, 1931)

The bit in Public Enemy I disproportionately like is right at the beginning, with the cast list. It’s an acted out list. I’m a sucker for these, like at the end of The Magnificent Ambersons. This should in no way be my favorite part of the movie, but it just might be.
He’s great, by the way.
She’s lousy, by the way.
Just look at this guy. He has cannon fodder written all over him. He lasts longer than your average nameless Star Trek Ensign Expendable who joins the beam-down party, but he gets it all the same.
Unlike Jean, Joan can act plenty.
Another stiff. No one bothers to shoot him in the movie, as it would be redundant.
What I like is a flamboyantly-dressed gangster with a walking stick named Leslie. Shaking, I am.
“No no, we’re not glorifying them. We would never do that. Bad, bad gangsters! For shame! Alert your neighbors to see this film to help cast shame on this criminal element! And be sure to return to this theater next week to fingerwag at the scandalous feature “Little Caesar”. It’s an abomination! Don’t miss it!!”

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