Classic movie site with rare images (no web grabs!), original ads, and behind-the-scenes photos, with informative and insightful commentary. We like to have fun with movies!
Archive and Links
Search Index Here

Friday, January 06, 2006

Sneaky Hollywood Monkeyshines Revealed!

Ever get tired of reading those spurious cinema histories that credit any number of films and/or personalities with saving their studios from bankruptcy? Lately, it’s been King Kong (no, not the recent remake!) that supposedly pulled RKO’s fat out of the fire (it did fine, but Rio Rita and Little Women did better, then Top Hat surpassed them all). We’ve also heard about Mae West, Deanna Durbin, Abbott and Costello, and the Frankenstein monster (poor Universal always seemed in need of fiscal rescue). Sometimes the real saviors go unheralded, never to claim the credit they so richly deserve. Such is the case with Bob Vaughn and Dave McCallum. Now, some of us know Bob from the Ray Courts autograph collector shows, and who’ll ever forget McCallum as dreamboat secret agent Illya Kuryakin (with that lilting accent!). Actually, I think both these guys are tremendous actors (seriously), and it’s great to see them still working, but I must confess to having made a faux-pas with Bob the time I met him at a Courts show. Instead of seeking an autograph and telling him how much I appreciated all his work (and I do, Bob), this writer made the unpardonable error of asking about what it was like working with Boris Karloff in The Venetian Affair --- and nothing else. No questions about the Oscar Bob nearly won for The Young Philadelphians, his powerful titular role in Teenage Caveman (saw it recently --- not bad!), and the grueling Towering Inferno shoot (wish he’d told Bill Holden to lose those ugly horn-rimmed glasses he sported all through the pic). I just got the dope on Karloff and walked away. They should have flayed me and driven me out of the Beverly Garland Holiday Inn in disgrace. Consider this my mea culpa, Bob, and apologies to you, profuse ones.

Now about that salvation from bankruptcy. The studio in question was MGM. It was the latter half of the sixties. The mighty Leo’s mane had become tattered and mangy. The list of casualties in the field was appalling. Seven Women, Made In Paris, The Singing Nun, Hold On!, Lady L (three million lost on that one), Mister Buddwing, Hotel Paradiso, Penelope. We could go on --- and on. Even the Elvis
shows lost money. Remember Spinout, Double Trouble, and Speedway? All of them came a cropper at the B.O. Hard to imagine how the place stayed open. But then wait --- someone had an idea --- an inspired idea. What if we pasted together some two-part episodes of Man From U.N.C.L.E and called it a theatrical feature? Sure it’s a cheater, but the chumps won't know until they’ve settled in with their Pom-Poms and Cherry Cokes. By then, we’ve got their sucker money. It’s better’n a carnival scam, and with all those two-part U.N.C.L.E episodes piling up from TV, this thing can go on forever! Funny thing is, it very nearly did, cause believe it or not, there were eight of these pics. Three released worldwide, and five distributed in foreign territories only. And dig some of those crazy foreign titles --- How To Steal The World, The Spy With The Green Hat, The Helicopter Spies, among others. But here’s the kicker. All but two made a profit (there is such a thing as going to the well too often, even with an U.N.C.L.E paste-up). A friend of mine caught The Spy With My Face in a grindhouse around 1966. He and his buddy entered the theater in good faith. After about ten minutes, my friend’s companion tumbled on to the deception. Son of a b---h! I saw this a month ago on television! Well, you should have examined the one-sheet more closely, said their friendly exhibitor. Sure enough, there it was. The disclaimer. Two Feature Length Hits From The TV Show. Case closed, and after all, these boys were only sixteen. They knew from nothing about semantics, but you don’t have to be an adult to know a skunk after he’s sprayed you. Yes, the incident was filed away, but never forgotten, nor forgiven. My friend carries the scars to this day. MGM made a bushel of profit on these rip-offs. In legal circles, they call that unjust enrichment. A whole lot of kids got duped. I know I did when I went to see One Spy Too Many (which, incidentally, brought in three quarters of a million dollars in profit). The only saving grace was that I had missed the TV episode from which it was "adapted", so the whole thing was new to me. I guess in a way you can’t blame Metro too much. Desperation makes scoundrels of us all, and the U.N.C.L.E’s really were the only sure thing they had for a while.

Let’s imagine for a moment that we're hapless exhibitors trying to make heads or tails of this "promotion aid" you’re looking at. By all means, click and enlarge. Only then does the full weight of it’s absurdity settle upon you. First note the attache case bally. That’s where your usherette gets to "slink" around town, "slipping" U.N.C.L.E identification cards to passerbys. Wouldn’t be long before you’d have police involvement if they tried that one today. How about the man "going around in a trenchcoat with a tamed bird on his shoulder." That would be good for a thirty-day psychiatric commitment. As far as that sign he’s carrying, HELP! I’m being held captive by a THRUSH agent, please send word to the Man From U.N.C.L.E. at the State Theatre. Well, we’ve got a thing called the Patriot Act to address that kind of tomfoolery. Oh well, as old Pete says in Nightmare Alley, it’s all smoked meat now. No more stunts like this today, and more’s the pity. I do wish I had one of those U.N.C.L.E. membership cards, though.


Blogger Mae West NYC said...

Thanks for mentioning MAE WEST. Hey, big boy! Come up and see Mae.

3:48 PM  
Blogger Paul Duca said...

I thought those movies were a success simply because most people didn't see them on TV in color..the same principle behind the MCHALE'S NAVY, MUNSTERS, and BATMAN theatrical films (of course the first two were never in color).

11:48 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home
  • December 2005
  • January 2006
  • February 2006
  • March 2006
  • April 2006
  • May 2006
  • June 2006
  • July 2006
  • August 2006
  • September 2006
  • October 2006
  • November 2006
  • December 2006
  • January 2007
  • February 2007
  • March 2007
  • April 2007
  • May 2007
  • June 2007
  • July 2007
  • August 2007
  • September 2007
  • October 2007
  • November 2007
  • December 2007
  • January 2008
  • February 2008
  • March 2008
  • April 2008
  • May 2008
  • June 2008
  • July 2008
  • August 2008
  • September 2008
  • October 2008
  • November 2008
  • December 2008
  • January 2009
  • February 2009
  • March 2009
  • April 2009
  • May 2009
  • June 2009
  • July 2009
  • August 2009
  • September 2009
  • October 2009
  • November 2009
  • December 2009
  • January 2010
  • February 2010
  • March 2010
  • April 2010
  • May 2010
  • June 2010
  • July 2010
  • August 2010
  • September 2010
  • October 2010
  • November 2010
  • December 2010
  • January 2011
  • February 2011
  • March 2011
  • April 2011
  • May 2011
  • June 2011
  • July 2011
  • August 2011
  • September 2011
  • October 2011
  • November 2011
  • December 2011
  • January 2012
  • February 2012
  • March 2012
  • April 2012
  • May 2012
  • June 2012
  • July 2012
  • August 2012
  • September 2012
  • October 2012
  • November 2012
  • December 2012
  • January 2013
  • February 2013
  • March 2013
  • April 2013
  • May 2013
  • June 2013
  • July 2013
  • August 2013
  • September 2013
  • October 2013
  • November 2013
  • December 2013
  • January 2014
  • February 2014
  • March 2014
  • April 2014
  • May 2014
  • June 2014
  • July 2014
  • August 2014
  • September 2014
  • October 2014
  • November 2014
  • December 2014
  • January 2015
  • February 2015
  • March 2015
  • April 2015
  • May 2015
  • June 2015
  • July 2015
  • August 2015
  • September 2015
  • October 2015
  • November 2015
  • December 2015
  • January 2016
  • February 2016
  • March 2016
  • April 2016
  • May 2016
  • June 2016
  • July 2016
  • August 2016
  • September 2016
  • October 2016
  • November 2016
  • December 2016
  • January 2017
  • February 2017
  • March 2017
  • April 2017
  • May 2017
  • June 2017
  • July 2017
  • August 2017
  • September 2017
  • October 2017
  • November 2017