Category: Mock With Me

Mock With Me #3: A Computer? Seriously?

Horrors Of The Black Museum (Arthur Crabtree, 1959)


For the most part, Horrors of the Black Museum is not so bad. It’s not so good, either. It mostly manages to be rather tamer than it promises, and not a little boring. I’ve heard it said that declaring a film “boring” says more about you than the film, but I’m going to risk it.

It takes only a few ventures outside of Tediousville, usually for a short jaunt over to Awfulburg. These bits invariably revolve around lead Michael Gough hamming it up like Dan Aykroyd playing a drunk Santa trying to eat salmon through his beard in Trading Places. Obscure reference? Maybe. Fine, then David Caruso in every single moment of CSI Miami.

But it doesn’t start in Tediousville, oh no! It starts foursquare in the High Street of Central Funopolis! In the first scene, a young woman receives a gift in the mail from a secret admirer. She opens it to find a pair of binoculars. She tries them out, and this happens:



Great stuff!

Then Gough rears his head, and it’s all downhill from there.


He plays Edmond Bancroft, a hugely successful writer of True Crime books, and owes many of his paydays to pointing out the failings of Scotland Yard. He also curates his own personal Black Museum in the cellar of his mansion, a collection of crime artifacts that puts the Yard’s own museum to shame.


With his assistant Rick in tow, Bancroft descends into the Black Museum.


The camera pans and drifts through the room, showing us an impressive (or maybe just weird) collection of waxworks, torture devices, and antique weapons.






Well, good. I guess this really is a nice collection. Say, what’s that they’re coming to on the right side? Must be fuse boxes or part of the furnace for the house or something…


Oh, it’s just a wall-length ENIAC-esque computer. What the what the WHAT THE???


Bancroft: You know Rick, the Black Museum at Scotland Yard is not really selective. A great deal of clutter. A meager little collection of guns and knives. Trunks in which hacked-up bodies were shipped. Death masks, ropes and neckties in strangulations. All in all, a dead collection that belongs to the past. But mine is alive. It not only pays tribute to the past, but it’s part of the present. And with the new electronic equipment, the future too.

Rick: Yes, I know.

And that’s it. That’s all the explanation we get. Later on, Bancroft and Rick are seen staring at the machines, reading dials and oscilloscopes as if it means a good goddamn thing:



This is a great example of 50s/60s film and television writers not having the slightest little clue what computers do or how they might work. I can only imagine the characters think the computer is inventing new ways to murder. It masquerades as science, but the understanding of the creators is so inadequate they are forced to treat it as magic. Rather than ouija boards and crystal balls, they consult meters and such. Either way, it’s visual gobbledegook.

As they stare seriously at their machinery (one can only boggle trying to guess what Gough thinks he’s portraying), they are interrupted by Bancroft’s M.D., who has figured out that he’s the murderer and is going to make a citizen’s arrest or some silly thing. Bancroft maneuvers him in between two banks of the equipment:


Hooray, it electrocutes people! Now that’s the crime of the future!

Look, I stand second to no one in my appreciation of truly awful Michael Gough performances, and I say that almost totally irony-free. But it’s enough. We can get all the guilty pleasure we need from his almost Shatner-esque adventures in cadence and punctuation – adding this giant electronic prop that not one person involved in the production understands is just gilding the lily.

Let the artist work his bad acting magic. Don’t crowd him out with bad props!


Mock With Me #2

Diamond Head (Green, 1963)


Diamond Head is a wrong wrong wrong wrong piece of cinema. It’s sort of on the early end of the trashy “big, sprawling” melodramas of the mixing of the rich and the poor, the kind of thing that found it’s final, emphatic statement on television. Dallas and Dynasty is where this sort of thinking leads. Some progress was perhaps made in the intervening 15 years – in Diamond Head the concern is first and foremost miscegenation – brown-skinned natives canoodling with the rich white plantation owners, while in Dallas/Dynasty the scandalous beddings were all just between rich and poor, race be damned. At least priorities were reordered.

Representing the rich and white, we have Charlton Heston and Yvette Mimieux as King (King!) and Sloane Howland. They are brother and sister, not husband and wife, although that point needs constant reminding: they can’t keep their hands off each other. Eeewww! Their family has been the rich white noise on the islands for generations, and they’ve kept their blood pure. They’ve got their own private little island and plenty of locals to staff the house and harvest their cane (and if you’ve ever had your cane harvested, you know how painful that can be).

The (relatively) poor and brown are represented by George Chakiris and James Darren as the Kahanna brothers. George is the smart doctor, James the dumb college football player.

Maybe it’s the times we live in, but the racial stuff is preposterously overplayed. No, I take that back – this just had to always be preposterously overplayed. See, the natives derisively refer to the white residents as Howlies. And Heston’s family, why their name is Howland. Get it? They sound alike, and, you see, that’s significant because, well…yeah.

Johnny Williams! That hep-sounding dude is, yes, the John Williams below – the Star Wars, Boston Pops, joined-at-the-Spielberg-hip John Williams. This moniker was the middle period of a musical metamorphosis – in the fifties, he went by Little Johnny Love Williams. Don’t look at me like that, ask him yourself.
There’s King, riding crop in hand, drinking whatever the local equivalent of a mint julep is. The suits have come by to ask if King will be their guy to run for the first Senate seat from the brand new state of Hawaii. Sure, he’s got no political experience – no particular experience at all aside from his daily manful ride past his fieldhands – but he is rich and an egomaniac racist, so he was naturally first in their rolodex.
Aagh! Trouble! Yvette and James have been away to college and are coming back together on a slow boat across the pacific. They grew up more or less together without incident, but in college, canoodling has broken out. When they get back, they’re going to tell Chuck Heston all about it.

Sticky wicket number one: James Darren is of course not Hawaiian. He’s from an Italian background. He’s wearing dark makeup. File that.

Sticky wicket number two: in the middle, helping meet the kids on their arrival is James’ mother Kappa Lani, played by Aline MacMahon. I don’t know what Aline’s racial background is exactly, but it ain’t Hawaiian. She’s wearing dark makeup. Don’t believe me? Check out her picture below, from Gold Diggers Of 1933:
So, file that too.
I dig this shot just for the WTF-ness of Chuck suddenly making like Frank Sinatra doing an album cover shoot.
Back home, and brother and sister can’t keep their hands off each other. Just to make it extra icky, he’s like 20 years older than her.
Chuck meets with James’ brother, played by George Chakiris, to discuss this disturbing interracial relationship that’s been exposed, and how they can stamp it out. George isn’t too happy about it either, mostly because he thinks his brother is too good for these uppity white folk.

Sticky wicket number three: George Chakiris isn’t Hawaiian either, he’s Greek. At least he isn’t wearing fake brownface.

Look, I don’t want to get all politically correct here because that’s not really my style, but this movie could not possibly be more bent out of shape about matters of race and the shame of it all. So you’re just begging me to call you hypocrites for casting Euro-descended folk in the lead “native” parts, and having half of them doing an Al Jolson-style facial cork-up at that. Why, were you afraid parts of the country couldn’t take seeing Yvette Mimieux in the arms of someone who actually was a minority? If you think that, why on earth are you making this specific movie in the first place? Feh.

Director Guy Green accidentally stumbles into an almost-interesting camera setup.

Of course, to make us really seethe with the injustice of it all, we see that King happily carries on with his girlfriend, played by France Nuyen, even while wringing his hands nonstop about his sister. This is another clue that maybe the fact that James Darren’s character is Hawaiian isn’t King’s biggest concern – his biggest concern may be that James isn’t King, and only King is good enough for his…sister. Eeeww some more!

Meanwhile, he’s dating France, except their dates take place entirely in her house and no one can know he’s seeing her. Nice.

Yvette/Sloane, starting to let her single most prevalent characteristic out of the bag – she’s a floozy.
“Hey Bro! How’s it going? Say, were you just muckling onto my fiancee?’

“Sure was”

“Swell! Everyone does!”

Jimmy D, busting out the Solid Gold moves at his engagement party.
Torsos dangerously near! In public!
King drinks this in.
There’s a little dustup in the crowd and the next thing you know James Darren is dead on the grass.
King: I was totally just minding my own business, cleaning my knife when dude just backed right onto it. Sorry to poop the party.

Okay Yvette – your beloved fiancee has just been knifed to death at your own engagement party. Your love is dead, your future dashed in a moment! And the killer is…your unnaturally obsessive brother, your only family in the world! Ready? And…action!:

Luckily, that’s just the beginning of a flurry of act-o-rama dramatic explosions from La Yvette. She gets tipsy and weeps hysterically!
Gets roaring, fall down, Foster Brooks-level drunk in bars!
She gets to slur cocktail-laced epithets at the TV as King withdraws from the Senate race – being rich and all he got the death ruled accidental, but that rabble the public doesn’t really buy it.
The old passed-out-drunk-wakes-up to people kneeling over her routine.
George takes her back to his family’s place and puts her up in her dead fiancees’ bed, tucks her in nicely, and then we get the dream sequence that justifies the whole film:
Horses! In case you’re male and didn’t know, all women’s dreams start with them riding a white horse, stroking it’s long neck blissfully. Not that this should be taken to signify anything. At all.
She drifts in the calm waters beneath a waterfall. Again, just so we’re clear, waterfalls, rushing water sounds – these are symbolic of nothing.
She beckons to someone. Thankfully, director Guy Green has chosen to show most of this sequence superimposed over Yvette’s sleeping face. This way we cannot be confused into thinking this is actually happening. It’s a dream, you stupid people!
Why it’s George! Come to me, George!
No really, come to me.
What? Why now it’s the late James Darren! Is he really her true love?
He wades out to her, getting his Aloha shirt all wet.
As they break their embrace, he turns into…

She wakes up screaming and horrified, or at least as close a facsimile as Yvette can manage. George rushes in to tell her it was just a dream.
But apparently her kind of dream. He cracks and lets her have her way.
Like Scarlett O’Hara, the morning after getting ahold of Rhett Butler.
Predictably and in the interests of melodrama, France has become pregnant with King’s child. Even more predictably, he wants nothing to do with, tries to get her to have it aborted. This is her carrying it to term and having the onset of labor pains. I suspect the pain might be from the child apparently retracting completely up into her abdominal cavity so that she looks completely not-pregnant. My evidence is that in the shot before she had a decent-sized baby bump. Here – not so much.
Double-predictably with a cherry on top, she dies in childbirth. Yvette decides she will raise the child and King can just lump it. He softens only slightly, still denying the child.
To really stick it to him, George and Yvette declare their love. Seeing her with another (brown) man, King goes berserk again, takes a whack at George, then goes off on some crazy-ass horse ride across the island, kicking up mud all over and generally behaving like a four year old.
He has what I suppose we are meant to think is some sort of come to Jesus moment where he realizes he’s an ass and repents of his racist ways. We can only guess because he doesn’t say anything about that, just that he’s going to get his son back. Pity the child – I hope Yvette and George have bolted the country and changed their names because what a sucky dad King would make.

If this is paradise, you can keep it.


Mock With Me #1

Bloody Pit Of Horror (Pupillo, 1965)

Man, the Marquis De Sade gets blamed for absolutely everything. I for one am getting a little tired of it. Own your actions, people.
In a centuries-ago prologue, we see the execution of a madman who, ironically enough, is an executioner himself. He calls himself The Crimson Executioner, and he is one of the most cuddly and lovable people dressed in red since Elmo. He seems to have been some sort of noble who used his castle to capture and randomly torture people just for giggles. He is sentenced to die in his own Iron Maiden device, where he is sealed in with a proclamation that none should disturb his body, or indeed the castle itself.
Of course, the mood is undercut by the Iron Maiden looking like an attraction at the county fair.
You don’t see enough movies shot in Psychovision anymore. Oh sure, there’s Bridge To Terabithia and Hotel For Dogs, but these things are rare.
Present-day (1965). A two-car caravan pulls up to an old Italian castle. They are a group of models, assistants, photographer, book publisher and author looking for locations to stage/shoot covers for cheap, lurid paperbacks. The castle seems empty, so naturally they climb up to a second story window and break in and make themselves at home. Happily, its full of weird old armor and contraptions and general creepiness inside. Hurrah!

Quick point: almost all of these people are going to die, violently. I can’t offhandedly think of something I’ve seen with as high a combination of speaking parts/body count. Sure there’s things like Commando where Schwarzeneggar kills dozens in minutes, but they’re mute extras. Here you speak, you die. I have the funny feeling that had the Saw franchise been made in the mid-60s, it would have looked a lot like this, and its ridiculousness that much easier to observe.

The models start posing, the photographer starts snapping.
The castle is not deserted. The owner, hidden in shadows, informs them they are not welcome, how dare they break in, etc. As they prepare to leave he surveills them through one a’ them sneaky mirror thingys. He sees something (hint: woman closest to the mirror, the hair/wardrobe girl) that gives him pause.
Let’s note right here that the owner is none other than Mickey Hargitay, former competetive bodybuilder, widower of the recently decapitated Jayne Mansfield, father of Mariska. He speaks over a microphone, telling them he’s changed his mind and they may stay and take their pictures, but avoid the dungeon areas!
The crew plop one of the male models into this device, which just happens to be lying around the castle. Its rope breaks, impaling him. Blue sweater boy here is the author of their cheap novels. He’s played by Walter Brandi and is the nominal hero of this thing. See, I don’t think comfy sweater jackets are conducive to an action hero image. It’s what kept Bing Crosby in musical comedy and light romances. Maybe I’m being narrow-minded.
This couple, hearing “Stay away from the dungeon!”, took that to mean, “go straight to the dungeon, recline in the dirt and get into some heavy petting.” They slipped away from the group before the rope accident. As they stumbled in the dark, they accidentally break the clasp on the old Iron Maiden. Who should suddenly appear before them?
The Noid! I mean…The Crimson Executioner!!!
They find and inform the owner of the accidental death. Niiice robe, Mickey. During this exchange, the wardrobe girl appears, and she and the owner stare awkwardly at each other, but both deny knowing the other. Later on she confesses to her companions that he is her ex-fiancee, they broke up a couple years ago and he dropped out of sight. His name is Travis Anderson, an American actor and bodybuilder, who, despite his biography, is absolutely not Mickey Hargitay. He’s Travis.
Travis withdraws back to his study to do some secret ogling.
And now we’re off and running. Our heroes encounter one of the models in this web contraption – move one of the strings, and one of the dozen bow/arrows on the walls will discharge and kill her. She warns them off, saying she’s certain to die, she can’t possibly be saved, there’s no hope for her, blah blah. The author tries to slither along the floor to help her, but honestly after listening to her complain I would have said, “fine, you’ve convinced me, you’re as good as dead. Which way’s the kitchen?”
This thing that is vaguely suggestive of a spider is moving slowly toward her face, and we’re informed that its bite is some of that instant-death poison stuff. I honestly can’t tell if we’re meant to think that it’s a mechanical contraption (slightly plausible) or a living creature (umm…) I think just maybe we’re supposed to think it’s a living creature. Either way, I crave a reverse shot! Reverse shot, please!
Thank you!
Wardrobe Girl finds Travis and confronts him. He reveals himself as the Crimson Exectioner!!!. The spirit of the long-dead original inspires him, and he will continue the work of the original to wreak bloody vengeance on the world! And why did you dump me?

To recap: The photo shoot crew is here entirely at random, a girl in the crew is the ex-fiancee of someone from an entirely different continent who just happened to buy this particular abandoned castle, and he just happens to be a psychopath. Contrivance, thy name is Bloody Pit of Horror.

Off he goes to the dungeon, and now it’s just 15 or 20 minutes of my jaw dropping. He’s got a fistful of the crew there, and he leaps from torture device to torture device introducing them to his toys.
In this setup, he’s got two girls spinning around in some sort of vertical Pit and the Pendulum contraption, as a series of swords move gradually closer to them as they rotate.
Luckily, rather than sharp tips, these swords seem to sport swabs for applying red paint.
The number of whack-a-doodle poses struck by The Crimson Executioner!!! in this sequence is seemingly without limit.poster
“Threepio!” Shut down all the garbage mashers on the detention level!”

Okay, having made a throwaway Star Wars reference, I have to digress long enough to ask: all the garbage mashers on the detention level? How many are there? How messy are these detainees exactly? One apartment-sized garbage masher isn’t getting the job done? Just sayin’.

“The Torture of Icy Water,” intones The Crimson Executioner!!! He’s impatiently moving the girls from device to device, like a kid at Christmas who has to rush to unwrap the next present.
It’s the rack for you! Bwah ha ha!
Walter Brandi escapes the collapsing bed of death and starts fighting back. The Crimson Executioner!!! employs a small staff of henchmen, all dressed exactly like this dude, and apparently laid off recently by The Riddler.
This is what happens to naughty publishers!
Travis had resisted laying a finger on his former fiancee, but now the gloves are off! He straps her to this bull-shaped metal pillory with a stove for a belly, and starts loading it with burning coals.
Sounds rough, but it apparently just makes a person sweat a lot. I think they have these at L.A. Fitness now.
Having survived the rotating swords and icy waters, blondie here now gets hot tar (melted chocolate?) poured on her back. Somebody end this please.
Walter Brandi will! Travis is unmasked and predictably killed by one of his own torture machines. But will the spirit of The Crimson Executioner!!! live on? I vote yes!

This utterly indispensible flick is in public domain and available on more than one DVD release. The one I saw was released by Something Weird, and was a rather nice print I thought, and apparently in the correct aspect ratio. There’s a cheap Alpha Video release too, but if past perfmance counts, there’s a fair chance it’s inferior. No, it is not ironic to be concerned with the A/V quality of such a crap movie. Stop thinking that.



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