Monday, June 29, 2015

Cult Movie Project #13 (of 200) :: Finding the Missing Link Between the Old and the New in Anthony Mann's Man of the West (1958)

As the 1950s progressed and the proliferation of television had studios cutting their B-Units to offset the loss of plunging ticket sales, the Western kinda dried up, leaving the genre a parched tumbleweed of its former self. But, irony of irony, when they started flourishing and became the dominant force on TV, studios started warming up to them again, giving them bigger budgets, adult themes, and a sense of spectacle that you couldn't get on the boob-tube, promoting the Western to, essentially, A-Picture status.

Now, before Sergio Leone and the Italians really blew things up in the 1960s, American westerns were already re-envisioning themselves thanks to the efforts of folks like Andre de Toth and Budd Boetticher (both working with a revitalized Randolph Scott), Jack Arnold (known mostly for his creature features but he made some excellent westerns with Audie Murphy, too,) and, especially, Anthony Mann. In fact, I'll argue with anyone that Leone borrowed liberally from all those mentioned above for his famous Spaghetti Westerns.

For his part Mann brought a stark and brutal film noir flavor to his westerns, and sucked all the romanticism out of the stock characters, situations and landscapes. The heroes were flawed, the villains irredeemably vile, and the heroines were a different kind of damaged goods. And together with star Jimmy Stewart, Mann blazed a trail of box-office hits, beginning with the excellent Winchester '73 (1950) and ended with The Man from Laramie (1955).

One of cinema's great mysteries is the exact reason why Mann and Stewart split-ways (politics most likely), but this rift found Gary Cooper in the starring void in Man of the West (1956), perhaps Mann's most destructive deconstructive western yet. I've always found Cooper to be a bit of an eccentric as an actor, but all of his tics and quirks fit reformed outlaw Link Jones to a tee. Unlike Stewart's characters, who were extremely volatile and extroverted and prone to manic outbursts, Cooper's lone character is introverted and extremely guarded. But what appears to be a bumbling imbecile on the surface is in truth the exact same pressure-cooker with a defective release valve.

And the plot he's plugged into is fairly similar to Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven (1992). Here, bad luck pulls Link back into his old destructive life when a botched train robbery leaves him and two con-artists (O'Connell and London) stranded in the middle of the prairie. Familiar with the area, Link leads them to an old abandoned hideout for shelter only to find it occupied by his old gang, led by the completely psychotic uncle, Doc Tobin (Cobb), who both raised and raised hell with Link before his prodigy got fed up with all the killing, disappeared, and went straight.

And while the other members of the gang don't trust him, Doc tries to bring Link back into the fold for their next big score. Link plays along to protect his two companions as best he can. But things get a little dicey from there with two tough scenes where one outlaw (Lord) forces the girl into a striptease, and then later, Link forces him to do the same after beating the crap out of him. Lord's wounded, humiliated screams as Link tears his clothes off is both deserved and downright disturbing.

This all inevitably leads to a final showdown, and a very disheartening rape, where Link must re-embrace his old ways to both survive and take revenge for the suffering innocents caught up in Tobin's delusional plan of trying to recapture his old thunder. (The big heist is nothing more than an abandoned ghost town.) Needless to say, it is quite spectacular.

The first time I watched Man of the West I'm kinda ashamed to admit that it took me almost half the movie to finally recognize nurse Dixie McCall from TV's Emergency. Born Gayle Peck in Santa Rosa, California, as the legend goes Julie London was discovered by an agent while working as an elevator operator, officially launching her music career and triggering a meteoric rise in the late 1950s that she managed to sustain for the next three decades and 32 albums. Intoning the same kind of sultry and sensual tones as Keely Smith, London also brought a breezy, preternatural intimacy to her songs that just melted your brain like hot caramel over ice cream. (Just listen to her cover of "One for My Baby" if you don't believe me.) Along the way she married and (amicably) divorced fellow jazz-enthusiast Jack Webb, and then married musician (and collaborator and future co-star) Bobby Troup.

And while rightfully known for her music and small screen career, London did make a few appearances on the big screen; but none had more impact than her work as Billie Ellis in Man of the West. Her character goes through all kinds of hell and her relationship with Link is lot more complex than one usually finds in a traditional oater. Before, any dastardly doing to any female was told through the prism of the hero and how it affected them, not the victim herself. Billie is raped by Tobin as a way to get at Link, but Link, while enraged over this, knows she was violated, not him. And rarest of all, Billie, no saint to begin with, and now a rape victim, damaged goods to the civilized world and beyond redemption, manages to survive without being "morally" put down for her sins. She loves Link, but he's already married and lets her down gently. And together, these two ride off into the sunset, bent and twisted but still unbroken.

Between Ellis' pleading, Beasley's grovelling, Tobin's ranting, Coaley's screeching, and Trout's murder of the terrified peasant woman followed by his own howling death, this film tends to haunt the viewer. And yet even though Mann's version of the west is bleak and unforgiving, there is some hope for law and order in Man of the West; as it's clear the time of outlaws like Tobin and his goons is waning, pushed deeper into the rapidly disappearing wilderness or brought to justice by men forged over the same furnace like Link. For in the end, no matter who you are or who you were, there's a choice to be made. One of the answers is right. The other wrong. And the space in-between is kinda blurry.

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"One of cinema's harshest portrayals of the west, [Man of the West] contains psychotic killers who are total opposites of the romanticized bad men of countless other westerns, a morally ambiguous hero who yields to his long-held-in-check violent nature in order to do in his brutal kin, and a very liberal dose of sex, an ingredient never found in a television western ... Mann typically sets his final gun battles far away from civilization, off in the wilderness, away from all eyes, where both men can fight as unfairly as possible to win -- life and death battles need not be fairly fought ... As is true of many of Mann's heroes, when Link kills his counterpart, he destroys a part of himself. In Mann's films, killing someone is difficult and not to be taken lightly.
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The Fine Print: Man of the West was watched via MGM's DVD. What's the Cult Movie Project? That's 13 down, with 187 more to go.

Man of the West (1958) Ashton Productions :: Walter Mirisch Productions :: United Artists / P: Walter Mirisch / D: Anthony Mann / W: Reginald Rose, Will C. Brown (novel) / C: Ernest Haller / E: Richard V. Heermance / M: Leigh Harline / S: Gary Cooper, Julie London, Lee J. Cobb, Arthur O'Connell, Jack Lord, John Dehner, Royal Dano, Robert J. Wilke

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Favorites :: Inks and Paints :: Dial "S" for the Subs, Then "D" for Disaster :: Best Birthday Ever!

Once again artist Tom Fowler perfectly captures the disaster-prone essence of The Legion of Substitute Heroes. I have always held a deep affection for the 'Never say die' attitude of the Subs, who, despite a colossal amount of collateral damage, most of it self-inflicted, have managed to save the Legion's hash on several occasions and, here, the artist has once more captured that gung-ho espirit de corps quite beautifully. For more of Fowler's wonderful work, follow the link to his website.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

In Memoriam :: Christopher Lee Takes the Devil by the Tail and Sends Him Back to Hell in Terence Fisher's The Devil Rides Out (1968)

One of my most favorite characters the late, great Christopher Lee ever played was the famed adventure and occultist, The Duke de Richleau, in The Devil Rides Out / The Devil's Bride (1968). Mined from the same Doc Savage vein, De Richleau was the creation of author Dennis Wheatley, who had him appear in eleven novels starting in 1933 with the last coming nearly forty years later in 1970.

A prolific teller of thrillers, adventure yarns, and piercing the veil of the occult and Satanism, Wheatley rivaled the likes of Edgar Wallace when it came to popularity and sales, becoming one of the world's best selling novelists for a forty year period (1930-1970). (Also of note, Wheatley's novels featuring Gregory Sallust were one of the main inspirations for Ian Fleming's James Bond.) But unlike Wallace, Wheatley didn't really embrace the new medium of movies to adapt his stories for an even broader audience, which was too bad because with the rich characters, intricate plots, international intrigue, and a huge heaping helping of the macabre, they were nearly all tailor made for the motion pictures.

Wheatley's first novel, The Forbidden Territory (1933), starred de Richleau and his merry band of muckrakers, which the author dubbed the "Modern Musketeers": young upstart Simon Aron; American aviator and athlete, Rex Van Ryn; and publisher and professional skeptic, Richard Eaton, and his wife, Marie-Lou. And while their first case was more straight-up adventure and daring-do, for the second Wheatley wanted to up the stakes and set our heroes against the forces of paganism and Black Magic. (In fact, Wheatley would have all of his adventurers encounter some form of the supernatural at least once.) And while he was already familiar with ancient religions, Wheatley wanted something more contemporary, seeking out information and input from the likes of Aleister Crowley (thee noted occultist of the era), the Reverend Montague Summers (who believed in werewolves, vampires and witches), and Rollo Ahmed (an expert on demonology and native rituals from many cultures).

Thus, Wheatley got the band back together for The Devil Rides Out (1934), where de Richleau and Van Ryn discover their friend Aron has come under the thrall of Damien Mocata and his cult of devil-worshipers. Further investigation unravels that Aron is instrumental in Mocata's plan to ignite the hidden power of the Talisman of Set, which gives whoever possesses it the ability to summon and control the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

With the fate of the world and their friend's soul on the line, then, an eldritch game of cat and mouse ensues as Aron is rescued, recaptured, and then rescued again after a daring night raid against the Devil himself breaks up a Black Mass, thwarting Mocata at least temporarily. Seeking refuge at the Eaton estate, the five reunited musketeers spend a night of terror, ensconced inside the apparent safety of a protective mystical circle de Richleau drew on the floor to repel Mocata's repeated attacks to lure them out and kill them.

Defeated on that front, Mocata switches targets and kidnaps the Eaton's daughter, replacing Aron as the ritual sacrifice needed to trigger the end of the world. And while the men are easily defeated by Mocata's own magic, Marie-Lou recalls the right incantation in the nick of time, invoking the Lord of Light, who possesses her daughter and pulls Mocata into the astral plane for the final battle royale, where his own demons are turned against Mocata and kill him.

From the very beginning, Hammer Films was interested in adapting the works of Wheatley. But even after their Gothic horror revival of blood and boobs hit big in the late 1950s (and kept on keeping on into the 1960s) the studio was stymied on two points: One, Wheatley's agents were asking for the moon and then some for the film rights; and two, founders William Hinds and James Carreras felt they would never get the gist of Wheatley's stories -- Satanism, orgies, and human sacrifices -- past the censors. And considering all the trouble they had with their aborted adaptation of Richard Matheson's I Am Legend (another tale for another review), these concerns were totally justified.

But it was Christopher Lee who finally got the ball rolling, reaching out to the author, himself. Lee, who was keen on playing de Richleau, was also a neighbor of Wheatley's and, negotiating over several glasses of wine, got the author's personal permission to film The Devil Rides Out, untangling several legal and logistical knots; and so, Hammer put it and another Wheatley tale, The Uncharted Seas, filmed and released as The Lost Continent, on the slate for a 1968 release. And, irony of ironies, the eventually finished film breezed through the censors with nary a hiccup.

Hinds initially commissioned a script from John Hunter, who had written the excellent psychological thriller on the horrors of pedophilia, Never Take Sweets from a Stranger (1960), but it didn't pass muster. Hinds then turned it over to Matheson to see what he could do with it. Again, Matheson had had a working relationship with Hammer ever since the I Am Legend fiasco, and had since written Fanatic a/k/a Die! Die! My Darling! (1965) for them; a terrific hagsploitation classic starring Tallulah Bankhead and Stefanie Powers. Matheson stayed fairly true to the novel, keeping it set in England in the 1930s, but with one glaring exception: there is no mention of the Talisman of Set, leaving the reason for Mocata's obsession with Aron and the girl, Tanith, up in the air, making it very confusing for those unfamiliar with the source novel. This, I feel, was a huge tactical mistake.

With the script set, Hammer regular Anthony Nelson Keys was tapped to produce, who basically used the same crew from the previous year's Quatermass and the Pit a/k/a Five Million Years to Earth (1967); and to direct, the studio brought out its big gun: Terence Fisher (The Curse of Frankenstein, Horror of Dracula, The Mummy, The Curse of the Werewolf. Pictured above with Lee).

Lee, of course, anchors the film as our arcane protagonist but he is equally matched by Charles Gray as the villainous (and very dapper) Mocata. One of the film's few flaws is that these two never really have a direct confrontation. I also love Sarah Lawson and Paul Eddington as the fighting Eatons, and Nike Arrighi as Mocota's seemingly doomed dupe, Tanith. Leon Greene is fine as Rex  the square-jaw, but Patrick Mower's Aron is total wash.

The film also showcases a couple of outstanding set-pieces. The first was the Black Mass and summoning of the Goat of Mendes. The suit concocted by Roy Ashton and worn by stuntman Eddie Powell is effectively creepy and unsettling. The second was Mocata's attack on the Eaton Estate. The earlier scene where he mesmerizes Marie is top-notch and the later attack is set-up to be something truly special but, alas, it kinda fizzles. The superimposed tarantula that stalks around the magic circle works well enough. Honest. Where it truly falls apart is the appearance of the Angel of Death. And for a studio that produced those creepy-as-hell ghost horses and riders for Night Creatures (1962), well, we know they can do better than taping plastic bat-wings to a horse.

And that really is the film's main flaw, and it's nearly fatal, is that despite all of de Richleau's hand-wringing and bombastic doomsaying, Mocata, his minions, and his plan are short-circuited and thwarted a little too easily. (One has to wonder if the "Divine intervention" at the end was a bone thrown to the censors.) The fact that we're never really clued into his true motivation didn't help matters any. And to me, the final confrontation that turns on Marie's sudden possession by the spirit of Tanith doesn't make a whole lot of sense -- nor the tacked on time-warp happy ending.

When the film was finished, Hinds nearly passed out after watching a rough-cut, feeling it didn't work. At all. Luckily, with some fine-tuning and James Bernard's score to glue it all together the film proved a moderately successful hit on both sides of the pond. (By all accounts, Wheatley absolutely loved it.) When it was imported to the States, fearing the original title would bring in people looking for another spaghetti western, Fox changed the title to The Devil's Bride. Whichever title, it didn't help matters that it was released the same year as Rosemary's Baby and Night of the Living Dead, making it look even more quaint and outdated than it actually was.

Still, I like this movie a lot. Again, it's one of my favorite performances by Lee in a rare instance where he gets to be the good guy. And ever since I first saw it, I've always viewed de Richleau as an ersatz Dr. Strange -- the Master of Mystic Arts. And somewhere, out there, is an alternate universe where Hammer took a gamble in the 1970s and adapted a movie -- or better yet, a TV series, where Lee played Stephen Strange in The Defenders, which hewed more closely to Julian Wintle's The Avengers than Lee and Kirby's Avengers, where the Sorcerer Supreme teamed up with fellow agents Robert "The Bruce" Banner (Nigel Green), a/k/a The Hulk; Namor McKenzie (Doug McClure), a/k/a the Sub-Mariner; Barbara Norris (Ingrid Pitt), a/k/a the Valkyrie; Patricia Walker (Caroline Munro) a/k/a the Hellcat; and Norrin Radd (Donald Pleasance), a/k/a the Silver Surfer to take on otherworldly things that went bump in the night. How awesome would that've been? I've actually got several faux dossiers on these characters cobbled together that I might publish here someday. Until then, Boils and Ghouls, raise your glass and bow your heads, for a legend has passed.

Sir Christopher Lee

This post is part of The Celluloid Zeroes posthumous celebration of the awesome and then some career of Christopher Lee. The tribute continues at Cinemasochist Apocalypse, Checkpoint: Telstar, and The Terrible Claw Reviews.

The Devil Rides Out / The Devil's Bride (1968) Associated British-Pathé :: Hammer Film Productions :: Seven Arts Pictures :: 20th Century Fox Film Corporation / P: Anthony Nelson Keys / D: Terence Fisher / W: Richard Matheson, Dennis Wheatley (novel) / C: Arthur Grant / E: Spencer Reeve / M: James Bernard / S: Christopher Lee, Charles Gray, Nike Arrighi, Leon Greene, Patrick Mower, Sarah Lawson, Paul Eddington, Rosalyn Landor

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

June Bugs :: An Uncomfortable Fear of the Known: The King of the B's Flames Out with Jeannot Szwarc's Bug (1975)

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"We live."
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I remember watching Bug (1975) when I was like, eleven or twelve, a movie of the week, and remember it fah-reaking the hell out of me, which had me anxious to give it another spin. I knew I had a copy, somewhere, having bought the DVD when it was released back in 2004 but, turns out, I never even removed the plastic wrap until last night. Guess there was some residual freak-out still lingering. Mebbe. Whatever. Wait. Why is my leg suddenly itching...

Anyways, the film was based on the Thomas Page novel, The Hephaestus Plague (1973), which is set in the fruit and tobacco belt down south. It kicks off with an earthquake that opens up a near bottomless, several-counties long chasm, which disgorges thousands of large, beetle-like insects. Armored like a mini-Sherman tank, making them nearly impossible to squish, and filled with a strange symbiotic bacteria instead of the usual internal organs, this new breed of pesticide-resistant bug are also equipped with a special set of rear antennae, which when rubbed together, spark like two pieces of flint, burning everything it comes into contact with and reducing everything around them to carbonized ash; the only thing these critters will eat. And so, like a slow but relentless plague of highly flammable locusts, these firebugs start wreaking all kinds of havoc with the local farmers. And once these bugs start hitching a ride on passing automobiles, what was once an isolated problem soon becomes a nationwide epidemic.

Enter entomologist James Parmiter, a pompous unlikable lout, whose morbid fascination with all things that creep and crawl give him the insight to classify and find this new species of bugs' vulnerabilities, which, in a feat of hubris, he names Hephaestus parmitera, putting himself in the same league as the Greek god of fire. Labeling them as an offshoot of the common cockroach, Parmiter deduces that the reason these bugs are so slow and dense is because they come from deep beneath the Earth's crust, where they were under considerable atmospheric pressure; and now, basically, they're suffering from a case of the bends. Things get a little weird from there as the obsessed Parmiter -- some might even call him... mad -- has no intention of destroying the bug but instead starts to crossbreed them with regular roaches, creating a new strain; a new strain that can communicate with him!

It's been awhile since I'd read Page's novel, as well (-- I vaguely recall reading it not long after I saw the movie, finding one of those "Now a Major Motion-Picture' tie-ins at some broken-spine), and the only thing I really remember about it is the hair-brained efforts to find a natural predator for the firebugs. A tarantula's venom proves worthless and a centipede is no match and quickly shredded; but the one test I recall vividly is the Gila Monster, which ate one of the bugs only to have it burn itself back out through its stomach. The film adaptation alludes to this scene at the beginning, when a family farm-cat has a similar fatal encounter with several of the bugs, the first of many gruesome and prolonged casualties -- especially if you're a feline, or blonde and pretty and female.

After establishing a reputation as the low-rent master of fright, William Castle had unleashed over a decade's worth of gimmick-driven films; and at the zenith of his popularity, the man's personal fan club had nearly a quarter of a million card-carrying members. But after introducing the world to Percepto, Illusion-O, Emergo and the Fright Break, the producer / director seemed to achieve a paradigm shift in his career when he secured the rights to Ira Levin's Rosemary's Baby, which he leveraged into a deal with Paramount, who would let him produce the film but not direct it. Unfortunately, this shift stalled when bad health kinda derailed things after Rosemary's Baby (1968) proved a box-office bonanza. His next film, Project-X (1968) was a disaster, and his personal art-project, Shanks (1974), which is better than you've heard, failed to find an audience. With Paramount's patience at an end, in an effort to get his groove back, Castle decided to return to his roots and make another horror movie.

The 1970s saw a brief resurgence in "mad science" monster movies. Some were pretty great -- Phase IV (1974), some will surprise you by how good they were -- Sssssss (1973), some were hilarious -- Night of the Lepus (1972), and some were pretty awful -- Food of the Gods (1976), and then there's Bug, which is kind of a combination of all the above.

Again, Castle would only produce Bug, leaving the directing to Jeannot Szwarc, who, for a brief -- and I mean, brief, period of time, was pegged to rival Spielberg as the best of the new young Turks of Hollywood in the 1970s. I've never been a big fan of Szwarc, finding his films flat, lifeless, and dull-looking. Perfunctory. I've never seen someone who can make cinema on some of his budgets -- Supergirl (1984) and Santa Claus (1985), look like cash-in made for TV movies. Bug didn't have that kind of money, but the director still managed to pull the effect off. *sigh* In his defense, I guess he was really good at that.

During pre-production, Castle had also wanted to bring back some of his old-school ballyhoo by installing automatic brushes under theater seats that would activate and tickle the audiences' ankles at certain strategic points to induce a case of the heebie-geebies. This was deemed not cost-effective by the studio and nixed. Undaunted, Castle still embarked on a personal cross-country promotional tour with "Hercules," one of the giant cockroaches used in the film, which Castle took out an enormous life insurance policy on.

As for the actual film, aside from moving the action to southern California, their adaptation doesn't stray too far from the source novel (in fact, Page co-wrote it with Castle), with one notable and sizable exception. Page's Parmiter was a bachelor who had turned his back on humanity long before the earth had broken open and belched-up his new best friends. One could almost consider him a co-conspirator of sorts. Szwarc's Parmiter, played brilliantly by Bradford Dillman, is very different. A little too caught up in his work perhaps, a little too target-fixated, but still a good man trying to solve a potentially epoch-level problem only no one will listen to him or pay attention to his findings. And what I remembered most about that initial screening wasn't the killer bugs, but the scientist slowly cracking up and making some horrific decisions; essentially one very sick man dooming humanity by adapting the "Bugs From the Earth's Core" to breathe and breed topside. This is what kept me up that night, not the giant cock-a-roaches. Though they were pretty gross.

It all falls apart for Parmiter when a careless oversight on his part results in the tragic immolation death of his wife (Miles) and the destruction of their home. Sharp eyes will notice the interior is the recycled kitchen, family room and den from the recently cancelled TV-series, The Brady Bunch. And even not-so-sharp eyes will spot Miles obvious stunt-double.

 Joanna Miles.

  Not Joanna Miles.

After that, he holes up in an isolated farmhouse with a pressurized tank, determined to crack and break the bugs to his will in several scenes that can best be described as insect torture porn. And while his method of cross-breeding a newer and even deadlier strain seems completely illogical to the viewer it's completely logical to him. That's what I mean by scary. And as a third generation of firebugs gestate, and a psychic hive-mind link is established between man and insect, it becomes crystal clear as to who is really controlling who.

Dillman's big break seemed to come early in his career when he played one half of Leopold and Loeb in Compulsion (1959), based on the notorious true-crime case and the resulting trial. But things kinda sputtered from there, which was bad for him but great for schlock cinema fans everywhere because he wound up in things like this, The Swarm (1978), Guyana: Cult of the Damned (1979) and Piranha (1978), adding a metric-ton of gravitas. I have never encountered a more intriguing and pathetic mad scientist than James Parmiter; mostly because his efforts are based on emotional damage instead of the usual narcissism. He truly is insane. And in anyone else's hands, I fear it would've been a disaster.

If you read up on Bug the general consensus is: it's pretty good but drags in the middle. On that I will disagree, because the middle is about 80% wild-eyed and twitchy Dillman taking a long walk off a very short sanity pier and the other 20% is Patty McCormack getting eaten alive. No, where Bug ultimately fails is in the climax, and that's completely due to a grievous misstep by the FX department.

Up 'til the end, the bugs were played by a succession of real bugs shot with a macro lens to great effect, starting with the 'Blaberus giganteus' a/k/a the Central American giant cave cockroach as the first generation (-- the males look like freakin' trilobites), the Madagascar hissing cockroach as the second, and the Palmetto bug as the last incarnation. Palmetto bugs, of course, can fly, and when they burst out of the chasm, the super-imposition looks a little cheesy but it works. Unfortunately, Dillman has learned too late that he's made a grievous error in judgment (actually about six or seven of them), and is soon swarmed over by a bunch of plastic, off-the-shelf toys that no amount of quick-cut editing will make you ignore the very visible strings they're hanging from, nearly torpedoing all the creepy and icky stuff that had been happening for the previous half-hour.

Others may be more forgiving for such compromises, and they are endearing to a point (and bring to mind the flying cruller monsters from It Conquered the World (1956)). And if this film had been in the same gonzoid vein as, say, Night of the Lepus, it would've been fine and more forgivable -- even applauded, but the film was a little more ambitious than that I fear. And then Bug just kinda ends, with a fire-engulfed Parmiter cannonballing into the chasm, with his "children" swarming in after him, followed by what can only be quantified as a Divinely-timed aftershock that seals the breach before the end credits roll.

Well, crap. Until the last five minutes, Bug was as eerily effective as I remembered -- better than I'd remembered, actually, but is ultimately skewered by this digital age that isn't as forgiving as broadcast TV on a 12-inch screen was way back when. Sadly, this would be Castle's last film. (He died two years later.) And to add insult to injury, Bug had the misfortune of premiering the exact same day as Jaws in 1975, a big-budgeted B-picture that Castle and others of his ilk used to churn out almost weekly from 1955 through 1974 -- in fact I'd argue that Castle had already done this with Rosemary's Baby, and it got killed at the box-office. (Somewhat ironically, Szwarc's next project would be directing the sequel, Jaws 2 (1978), which, true to form, looks like a MFTV cash-in of the original.) 

This, is too bad. For even though it tripped over the finish line, I'd still give Bug a hearty recommendation. Watching Dillman work, alone, makes it worth a spin, the firebugs are just set-dressing. Nightmare inducing set-dressings, sure, because, I mean, *bleaugh* AND WHY ARE MY LEGS STILL ITCHING!?!

This post is part of June Bugs, a whole month long bucket of creepy-crawly reviews courtesy of The Celluloid Zeroes. Be sure to click on over to Cinemasochist Apocalypse, Checkpoint: Telstar, and The Terrible Claw Reviews for more insecticide insanity 

Bug (1975) William Castle Productions :: Paramount Pictures / P: William Castle / D: Jeannot Szwarc / W: William Castle, Thomas Page (novel)/ C: Michel Hugo / E: Allan Jacobs / M: Charles Fox / S: Bradford Dillman, Joanna Miles, Richard Gilliland, Jamie Smith-Jackson, Alan Fudge, Jesse Vint, Patty McCormack
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