Camp David

CAMP DAVID SEPTEMBER 2001

By • Sep 1st, 2001 •

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Having moved back into the Hills of Beverly (after a two year stint in Palm Springs doing my radio program version of this column), I was more than ready for whatever came my way to give the column that “LA” touch!!! I didn’t have to wait too long as Venice Beach paid homage to the “beefcake Kings” who reigned on the Silver Screen from the late 50s until around 1968. This became known as the “sword and sandal” genre in its glory days. The undisputed King of this genre was Steve Reeves who passed away recently and the event was dedicated in his honor. The actors that were given the “Sons of Hercules” award were Reg Lewis, Peter Lupus, Ed Fury, Gordon Mitchell, Richard Harrison and Mickey Hargitay. Each one had great titles to their credits like: GOLIATH AND THE BARBARIANS, GIANT OF METROPOLIS and and THE CRIMSON EXECUTIONER (aka THE BLOODY PIT OF HORROR). Richard Harrison was a personal friend from my tenure in the Desert and had been a frequent guest on my radio program.

The one I wanted to meet the most was Mickey Hargitay. Long a fan of his Italian films including the delirious LOVES OF HERCULES with his then-wife, the legendary Jayne Mansfield, his path and mine kept crossing but never giving me the opportunity for an interview and to express my personal enjoyment of all his work.

Mickey Hargitay is still very recognizable and in great shape. His sense of humor and European sensibilities were on full display at the day’s events. I caught up with him as he was being interviewed by our ABC affiliate, Eyewitness News Channel 7 and quickly made friends and even managed to give the reporters the correct titles for some of his Italian epics. His daughter Mariska was at his side that day looking lovely and one could see how proud they were of each other’s accomplishments. Mariska, having just become a regular on a TV series called “Law and Order: Special Investigation.”

All of the men being honored were past sixty and yet the fans treated them as if time had stood still and they were preparing for another epic at Cinecitta. Harrison and Hargitay were the most recognizable of the group. The one that most people would know immediately was Peter Lupus (aka Rock Stevens) from the old TV series “MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE,” yet while looking very healthy he somehow wasn’t the same man that I saw the night before on AMC’s American Pop Series, MUSCLE BEACH PARTY. Well, time waits for no one. Shortly after arriving in Palm Springs, I was informed that Frank Capra filmed portions of LOST HORIZON (1937) in and around the San Jacinto Mountains that completely surround the city. However, Palm Springs is no Shangri-La. As a former resident of said “paradise,” I can only tell you that it has almost as much smog as L.A. and the locals are so self-involved that a film festival makes local headlines by firing the head of the organization because the whole thing is run by a couple of millionaires with more cash than community awareness. And for god’s sake, don’t come here to do drugs! Just ask Robert Downey, Jr. In other words, this reviewer is grateful for the experience but very glad to not wind up like the actress Margo in LOST HORIZON and wither away. I made my exit over the mountains and back to Beverly Hills.

Completely shocked at the condition and lack of recognition of Sixties icon Sandra Dee. The desert move and temperature change put me in harm’s way at Cedars-Sinai Emergency Center when who should turn up but Sandra Dee, the original GIDGET and Mrs. Bobby Darin and the Sixties Queen of Hollywood Glamour. As she sat comatose next to me I was in denial that her name was called twice yet no one knew her. Her last feature was THE DUNWICH HORROR (1970) [out this month on DVD from MGM Entertainment] and it was her swan song.

Considering that this woman was just on television the night before and appeared in such high-profile items as COME SEPTEMBER (1961) and IF A MAN ANSWERS (1962) (both with hubby Bobby Darin) and a plethora of others (PORTRAIT IN BLACK with Anthony Quinn and Lana Turner), Sandra Dee was working with the greats when she fell from favor.

The most spectacular DVD release of the year has got to be Arts & Entertainment’s repackaging of all Dame Diana Rigg’s episodes as the divine Emma Peel on the cult TV series, THE AVENGERS. A personal favorite since it came out in the mid-Sixties, I quickly turned in my VHS boxed edition for this Megapeel extravaganza. The quality and sound is simply to die for and to have all of her just for me was, well, like being back in the Sixties!

A & E also scores with their ongoing rejuvination of such British series as THE HAMMER HOUSE OF HORROR, THE JEWEL IN THE CROWN, THE SAINT, SPACE: 1999, and of course Monsieur Hercule Poirot adventures all preserved now on the DVD format. Champagne and roses to the folks at A & E (and especially to my own Miss Lemon, and you know who you are!)

CITY OF THE DEAD, the British title for the now-classic HORROR HOTEL starring Christopher Lee, has been on DVD in two different versions. And now it is being given yet another under its correct title and with minutes restored making VCI’s new edition the definitive one. VCI is also planning an edition of Steve Reeves THE WHITE WARRIOR and already in the stores is the Director’s Cut of RUBY with Yours Truly’s hour-long on-camera interview.

Speaking of Christopher Lee, Anchor Bay has put out a Limited Edition Box Set of THE WICKER MAN that Lee believes contains his best performance. Written by Anthony Schaffer (SLEUTH) and also starring Edward Woodward, The Equalizer himself. THE WICKER MAN is now as complete as it will ever be and will always be considered a classic. Anchor Bay has to be at the moment the leading distributor of horror films in the DVD market. They have put out in just 2001, SCARS OF DRACULA, HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN, BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY’S TOMB and most of the Hammer catalog to boot. The list for 2002 is staggering in range and any connoisseur of the horror genre will notice just how much Anchor Bay is on his shelf.

Never did I think that THE LOST BOYS reunion would involve a $1500/session in a Hollywood bungalow but one of the cast members changed the landscape of hustle as we heard stories of said thespian going from charging $20 for an autograph into private nude photo sessions in rented hotel rooms. It makes the Robert Blake saga even more out of control as we realize that what Jim Morrison said three decades ago even more succinct “Nobody Gets Out of Here Alive.”

Local personality Skip E. Lowe, who is just a little bit taller than Billy Barty, is on his own Yellow Brick Road with a salacious bio entitled “The Boy with Betty Grable’s Legs.” A decidedly off-beat biography when one considers that Mr. Lowe was introduced into homosexual behavior by The Big Thumb of a tennis great of a bygone age. And if you wish to know more, then by all means read the lowe-down for yourself!

One of the joys of being back in Tinseltown is watching the Babylon-like construction of the new building which will permanently house the Academy Awards and is architecturally identical to the sets of D. W. Griffith’s magnificent INTOLERANCE. Hollywood is getting a much-needed facelift with the addition of many new trendy nightspots and eateries.

During the entire month of August the emphasis was on fantasy/horror/science-fiction genres at the American Cinematheque. Dennis Bartok, the Cinemateque’s Program Director, outdid himself by acquiring Italy’s master of Eurohorror, Dario Argento’s very latest film entitled SLEEPLESS. Clocking in at 117 minutes, the film (dubbed in English) stars former Bergman regular, Max Von Sydow and has not been shown in the United States until now. Among the other treats for Fans of the Fantastic were: the digitally restored SUPERMAN (1978) with eight minutes of never-before-seen footage (some of which includes Marlon Brando). Japan was not to be overlooked with a special double-feature of MOTHRA (1961) and GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER (1966). A full-length director’s cut of Tobe Hooper’s LIFEFORCE (1985) complete with in-person appearances by both Hooper & actor Steve Railsback (who is currently featured in the title role in ED GEIN in a video store near you). Among the revivals at the Festival were THE WICKER MAN (1973), THE INNOCENTS (1961), and a Mexican horror double-bill of the outrageous THE BRAINIAC (1961) and DR. TARR’S TORTURE DUNGEON (1972). Bartok screened the only surviving English print of TARR’S DUNGEON. Veteran director Val Guest was there in person with a new 35mm print of THE CREEPING UNKNOWN (aka THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT, 1956) plus DAY THE EARTH CAUGHT FIRE (1961). Mr. Guest has just written an autobiography entitled “So You Want to Be in Pictures.”

With all the renewed interest in director Mario Bava, Bartok achieved another coup in obtaining gorgeous prints of HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD (1961) and PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES (1965). This along with a rediscovered Eurosex fantasy classic by Walerian Borowczyk entitled THE BEAST. For information on further series contact (323) 466-FILM or www.egyptiantheatre.com. Hopefully by my next column I will have fully recovered from abandoning Shangri-La and will have much more news from this Babylon known as Hollywood.

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