Monday, March 23, 2015


Our first movie for AndressFest'15 was 'Nightmare in the Sun'. It's an actual movie and not, as you might think, just a generic term for any Ursula Andress movie watched during daylight hours.

'Nightmare in the Sun' was the 1965 directorial debut of John Derek, who cast his then-wife Ursula Andress as one of his leads, clearly without understanding that The Curse of Ursula consigns all of her movies to cinematic doom.

Or perhaps he understood, but just didn't care. Here's how we're introduced to Ursula:

Which is all the evidence you need of why AndressFest is in its 10th year.

Ursula plays Marsha Wilson, a beautiful European girl who married a rich old American man in order to see the world, but got stuck in a boring, po-dunk town rather than experiencing the New York high life he promised her.

She's desperate to escape this dusty backwater, and spontaneously offers to drive a handsome hitchhiker (John Derek) to his destination in Los Angeles. But first they make a stop at her place to pack, take a dip in the pool, and bear witness to Ursula's collection of creepy dolls, including a terrifying miniature Richard Simmons.

But when she find out he's married, the whole plan falls apart. The hitchhiker leaves, just in time to be seen by Ursula's drunken husband, who responds to the erroneous impression that she banged the stranger by blasting her with a rifle.

Ursula he shoots once. The Miniature Richard Simmons he shoots three times. He may be drunk and crazy but he's not stupid.

Enter the local sheriff (Aldo Ray), who ironically actually was banging Ursula earlier that day. He realises that if the old man confesses to Ursula's murder, his own adultery will probably come to light and his career will be over. So he decides that they'll blame the mysterious hitchhiker. As a result, said hitchhiker becomes a hunted man, forced to dodge slack-jawed deputies, road blocks and vigilantes on top of the usual threats to movie hitchhikers, such as demonically possessed trailer trucks and Thelma and Louise.

Included in the cast of vengeance-crazed hillbillies is a local scrapyard owner (Keenan Wynn), a couple of senile animal hoarders (George Tobias and Lurene Tuttle), and two out-of-town bikers who join the hunt in the venal hope that there will be a reward. They demonstrate that even in 1965, Hollywood was still under the daft 1950s illusion that rebellious biker youths could be convincingly played by 34 year olds with thinning hair and a penchant for cardigans.

Many commentators believe there was a homosexual subtext between these two. I say that no gay man would ever leave the house dressed like that.

Eventually the hitchhiker is captured by, of all things, a creepy scoutmaster. But when he's handed over to the police, he's immediately freed: the old man, wracked with guilt, has confessed to Ursula's murder. Oh, and the sheriff's, apparently. It's as if the cameraman suddenly discovered that they only had a few feet of film left and they had to wrap up the story in eleven seconds.

'Nightmare in the Sun' wasn't a terrible film, at least not by AndressFest standards, but when the best thing about your movie is a famously beautiful but famously terrible actress... well, you could probably stand to tighten things up a bit.

It helped that Marsha was the role Ursula was born to play. Her scenes, which required her to roll nudely around a bed, climb out of a swimming pool in a clingy wet white dress, and flirt with every man she encountered under the age of fifty, were just things that Ursula would probably have been doing anyway, only this time there were cameras filming it. As such she is one of the two best things about 'Nightmare in the Sun'.

The other best thing was her car:

Marsha's car was actually Ursula's own car, a gorgeous 1958 BMW 507 Series II convertible. Only 253 were ever built, and these days a fully restored version typically sells for one to three million dollars. Ursula's own example sold for more than a million dollars in 2011.

It made sense. The ravishingly sexy Ursula Andress needed a ravishingly sexy car: she could hardly be expected to get about in a Ford Anglia. They were both stunning, rare, exotic creatures out of place in the scrubby California hinterlands. And within a year at least one of them had divorced her husband and high-tailed it back to Europe.


Post a Comment

<< Home