Sunday, December 23, 2007

16th February 2007: Island of Lost Plots jungle double!

Horrors Of Spider Island

West Germany/Yugoslavia 1960 b&w

aka It's Hot In Paradise, Ein Toter Hing Im Netz/“A Corpse Hangs In The Web”, Body In The Web, Girls Of Spider Island, The Spider's Web

Director “Jaime Nolan”/Fritz Böttger Writers Fritz Böttger, Eldon Howard, Albert G. Miller

Cast Alexander D'Arcy (Gary), Barbara Valentin (Babs) “Allen Turner”/Rainer Brandt (Bobby), “Temple Foster”/Harald Maresch (Joe)

In this ever-shrinking world it’s nice to know there are still parts to this planet left undiscovered. Tonight we don our jungle greens and take the pith helmets off the hat rack for our special “Island of Lost Plots” double feature.

First up is the 1960 West German Horrors Of Spider Island, featuring Barbara Valentin (real name: Uschi Ledersteger), once dubbed the “German Jayne Mansfield”, and a cast of dancing girls who can barely dance, and strippers who do anything but strip. On a plane trip to Singapore the engines predictably spit the dummy, the plane goes down (phwoar) and the dinghy loaded with Bavarian cheesecake, still in garter belts and stockings, washes up on the shore of an uncharted island. Naturally a plane load of German tourists can’t stand the tropical heat and are constantly stripping down to their oversized Fifties underthings, while Garry, the girls’ minder who talks to his wards like they’re ten year olds, struts around with his shirt off and watches his hairs form a perfect “T” on his chest.

The film quickly descends into a burlesque loop cross-bred with Lord Of The Flies as Garry sleazes his way through each sunbleached dance-frau, who all turn into jealous, selfish, bitchy, preening and panting Hamburg hussies. He blames his appalling behaviour on the heat - nice one Garry. He meanwhile stumbles on a gigantic spider web and the remains of a uranium mine, and before you can say “Nietzschean spider-mentsch”, he’s bitten and transforms into a mutant spider, and continues to work his way through the girls - now with fatal results.

The racier nudie-cutie, or more like “nudie-weirdie”, version, was released in the US in 1962 as It’s Hot In Paradise. When it failed to set the box office on fire the distributors chopped almost ten minutes of salacious footage and re-released it in 1965 as a creature feature, Horrors Of Spider Island. This does explain why the girls are more interested in cat fights than snake bites. And speaking of spiders, boy does this spider have legs! Which is more than you can say for this movie, which for a sexploitation film is kinda like a spider with its legs pulled off.

At one point Garry says, “Don’t you think I’d rather be in a bar in Singapore with a nice cold drink than to be in this Godforsaken place?” I think we all would, Garry, but if you are sitting at home right now with the Dry Horrors and nothing else to do, we’re glad you joined us for the Dry Horrors of Spider Island.

King Of Kong Island

Italy/Spain 1968 colour

aka Eva La Venere Selvaggia, Eve The Wild Woman, Kong Island

Director “Robert Morris”/Roberto Mauri Screenplay Roberto Mauri Story Walter Brandi, Ralph Zucker

Cast Brad Harris (Burt Dawson), Esmeralda Barros (Eva), Marc Lawrence (Dr Muller), Adriana Alben (Ursula)

We now go to East Africa, where life is cheap but clearly ape suits are expensive. And by Africa we mean a studio backlot somewhere in Italy that doubles for the “island” in King Of Kong Island.

I must have denghi fever and it’s my insane imaginings that jungle B-films were the property of the 1930s and 40s: what could be described as “Apesploitation”, or the “Monkeys Going Bananas” genre. And yet in the 1960s, with Planet Of The Apes one of the most popular films of the year (“You dirty rotten stinking apes!”) we have Night Of The Bloody Apes (1968) from Mexico, soon followed by the Italian sexploitation film Queen Kong (1976), and Hong Kong’s Goliathon/Mighty Peking Man (1977). It may be man’s endless fascination with our lesser-evolved simian twins, or we just can’t help but get a cheap laugh out of a guy in a monkey suit.

King Of Kong Island opens with a dastardly scientist Dr Muller using stolen goods to fund his surgical experiments on gorillas. Now, seriously, “gorilla”? Even I own a better monkey suit than this. Cut to a hunting expedition led by Burt (Brad Harris, the American actor who played everyone from Samson to Goliath and Hercules) who is ambushed by not one but TWO “gorillas”, complete with surgical scars, who kidnap Diana, the most attractive of the group. Despite his previous mission’s complete and abject failure, Burt is charged with bringing Diana back, past miles of stock footage - although to be truthful the producers did find a parrot and a cockatoo and a few pink flamingos for a shirtless Burt, who at times resembles a shaved ape himself, to chase around a studio lagoon.

In an amalgam of every thirty-year old jungle cliche, Burt comes across some spooked natives in awe of the Sacred Monkey God, a helpful chimp and a jungle girl called Eva, who can’t utter a word of English but speaks fluent monkese, which leads Burt to look her square in the eye and ask, “Are you the Sacred Monkey?” Unbelievable. The hunt ends at Dr Muller’s underground dungeon-cum-laboratory in the middle of the jungle where the insane megalomaniac - and the King of the title - has turned the apes into radio-controlled zombies, manipulated by an enormous Electronic Brain.

The film was picked up by American producer Dick Randall, an old-fashioned expert in hullabaloo who was as colourful as the characters in his own Z-grade pickups. Born in the US but based mainly in Rome, Randall was the guy who filmed Jayne Mansfield’s grieving family a week after her death and immediately edited the footage into his 1968 mondo film The Wild World Of Jayne Mansfield. He also sold the Filipino midget James Bond spoof For Your Height Only (1981) to the world and turned the two foot nine star Weng Weng into an unlikely international superstar. He could sell a chainsaw massacre to Texas with the 1982 Spanish slasher film Pieces, and could sell a turkey-baster to Foghorn Leghorn in the same breath as he sold this turkey.

Did I say “turkey”? I meant “gorilla”, and as honorary Great White Hunters we should approach this film tonight with the right spirit, whose concepts are as absurd as the very idea of white colonialism itself. Tonight we present to you the logical successor to Graham Kennedy as the next King of Australian TV, the 1968 King Of Kong Island.

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