Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Eegah (1962)

... aka: Eegah!
... aka: Eegah: The Name Written in Blood

Directed by:
"Nicholas Merriwether" (Arch Hall Sr.)

Arch Hall Sr. (after a stint as a radio writer and serving in the U.S. Air Force as a pilot) moved on to a career as a Hollywood stuntman and bit player, usually in westerns. In 1961, he wrote and produced the juvie delinquent pic The Choppers (1961) as a vehicle for his pug-faced singer / actor son Arch Hall Jr. The film ended up becoming successful enough to help finance a half dozen other collaborations between them through their Fairway International Pictures company.  Sr. usually produced and wrote these, Jr. starred and contributed music and director / writer James Landis and director / cameraman Ray Dennis Steckler were also added to the group. Eegah (the only FIP release directed by Arch Sr.) went on to become the most famous of all these releases; but not for the reasons the Hall's probably intended. In 1978, it ended up making the cut for Harry Medved's book The Fifty Worst Films of All Time (And How They Got That Way), which started the ball rolling on its reputation as one of the worst films ever made. After being lampooned on a popular episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 in 1993 and being listed as one of the 100 most enjoyably bad movies ever made in Golden Raspberry founder John Wilson's The Golden Razzie Guide, the cult had been secured. It now sits as the #48 on IMDb's Bottom 100 list.

After picking up a "swimming suit" for an upcoming pool party, Roxy Miller (Marilyn Manning) is driving down a lonely stretch of desert road when suddenly a giant caveman (7'2" Richard Kiel) brandishing a club leaps out in front of her car. She's spared being clubbed over the head right then and there when her gas station attendant / musician boyfriend Tom Nelson (Arch Jr.) pulls up behind her and honks the horn. Roxy immediately tells him and anyone else that will listen her story, trying to give it credence by exclaiming, "There were giants, the bible says so!" Despite the fact they don't really believe her, her father Robert (Arch Sr.), a fantasy book writer, and Tom decide to accompany her to the area she spotted the big guy. They find several large footprints, which is enough for Robert to hop in a helicopter and fly out to Shadow Mountain in hopes of taking a photo of it. The following day, Tom and Roxy take out a dune buggy to pick Robert up, but he's nowhere to be found.

Tom and Roxy camp out for that night waiting for her father. When he doesn't return by the following day they go looking for him. Tom leaves Roxy alone in the buggy long enough for the cave dude to abduct her and take her back to his cave home, where he's also keeping her father prisoner. They nickname him Eegah cause he says "Eegah" a lot. Eegah quickly develops the hots for his young captive and proves to be a thoughtful suitor by sniffing her arms, trying to pick lice out of her hair, quenching her thirst with putrid sulfur water and introducing her to his proud parents. OK, they aren't really proud, but they probably would be if they were still alive! Roxy returns the favor by giving him a shave. Pretty soon, Eegah is wanting to get down and dirty with Roxy but Tom shows up just in time to save her from being manhandled by pelting the love-struck prehistoric giant with rocks. Everyone manages to get away, but Eegah decides to make the long trip from the desert into Palm Springs. There, he drinks from a swimming pool, scares a drunk, demonstrates an interesting alternative to using a doorknob, steals a big hunk of meat from a restaurant, accidentally enters the ladies restroom and finally tries to carry Roxy away on his shoulder after crashing a pool party where Arch Jr. and his band are playing. The terrible acting, amazingly awful dialogue and frequent botched attempts at cornball humor, this is likely to tickle just about any bad movie fan's funny bone.

With all these films, Daddy Hall seemed to want to establish Junior (who performs three songs here) as a singer / actor / heartthrob triple threat in the same vein as Elvis Presley. The problem? While Elvis was a pretty lousy actor himself, he was undoubtedly both a very talented musician and an extremely handsome and charismatic man. Archie usually didn't impress with the acting either, but on top of that his music was mediocre and, thanks to a pronounced forehead, sunken in eyes and eyebrows that were arched in the middle, his "look" can best be described as creepy. James Landis seemed to be the only one to realize this when he cast Arch Jr. as a sadistic psycho in THE SADIST (1963), which remains the only good performance ever given by the young actor. In fact, it's an excellent performance. Manning also managed to impress in The Sadist (she played Arch's girlfriend there, too) despite being pretty awful here. Kiel would of course later become famous for playing Jaws in the James Bond films The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and Moonraker (1979), and he actually doesn't embarrass himself here too much all things considered.

Ray Dennis Steckler, whose legendary The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies (1964) was also an FIP release, was the cameraman and also puts in a cameo as a guy getting tossed into a pool by Eegah. Steckler's wife Carolyn Brandt also appears briefly, as does Arch Sr.'s wife Addalyn Pollitt and successful Motown songwriter and producer Deke Richards. Arch Sr. used the alias "Nicholas Merriwether" for directing and producing, and "William Watters" for acting. The budget was just 15,000 dollars and it was very (financially) successful.


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