Thursday, April 7, 2011

Movie Poster Spotlight :: Wait ... Where Was that Raw Violence and Naked Fury Again? :: Eddie L. Cahn's Flesh and the Spur (1957)

Whether it be Joseph E. Levine (-- or was that Robert Lippert?) offering to buy just the promotional materials for The Beast with a Million Eyes, with every intention of scrapping the [somnolent] finished film that, at the time, didn't even have the sock-puppet monster yet and starting over, to several critics and exhibitors bemoaning a wish that their posters had sprocket holes so they could be hooked up to the projector instead of the films they represented, the boys at American International Pictures learned early that a good poster campaign and press-kit could go a long, long way toward box-office success, especially since most of their features were financed by pre-selling them to the chains based on those materials alone.

Flesh and the Spur, a simple but overall effective western, was more of the same old bait-and-switch shenanigans. On film, we have John Agar's Matt Random searching for the man who killed his brother, with the only clue to the killer's identity being a discarded gun found at the scene of the crime. Along the way he hooks up with another desperado (Connors), an Indian maid (English), and the drunken comedy relief (Hatton). And though heavy on the telling and not showing, as most of these old AIP flicks were, I still dug it quite a bit, especially a quite spectacular barroom brawl where those spurs are put to deadly use.

Garnering his nickname on the basketball court, Mike "Touch" Connors had already starred in several flicks for AIP (Day the World Ended, Swamp Diamonds) before using some family connections to raise the scratch to shoot his own western. Turning to low-budget wunderkind Alex Gordon and fast shooting Eddie L. Cahn to maximize those Armenian dollars for him, Connors, through Gordon, then struck a deal with American International to distribute Flesh and the Spur.

And as the story goes, Connors first meeting with the AIP brass included a look at Al Kallis' provocative artwork, which focused on the flesh of the ravaged female lead, Marla English, being staked out on an anthill, with her breasts about [-this-] close to being exposed for all to see, menaced by the giant, prickly spur of one of the two desperate desperadoes encircling her.

When a confused Connors mentioned there was no such scene in Chuck Griffith's script, one can almost see James Nicholson and Sam Arkoff cock their heads a bit and smile at each other, then one of them patting the poor executive producer on the head while the other said simply "Now there is..."

Thus, despite some reluctant ants and an impatient starlet lashed to an impromptu stake, the scene was shoe-horned into the climax, where Cahn and Gordon actually did the poster one better, having the hostiles strip the captive bare (mostly implied) before leaving the victim to her ghastly fate until thee eventual rescue by our hero. Hurray! And if nothing else, at least as late as 1957, we can take some comfort in that American International was at least trying to be somewhat earnest with their product.

Other Points of Interest:

Flesh and the Spur (1957) Hy Productions :: American International / EP: Mike Connors, Charles J. Lyons Jr. / P: Alex Gordon / D: Edward L. Cahn / W: Charles B. Griffith, Mark Hanna, Lou Rusoff / C: Frederick E. West / E: Robert S. Eisen / M: Ronald Stein / S: John Agar, Marla English, Mike Connors, Joyce Meadows, Raymond Hatton

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