Sunday, March 30, 2008


Last year, in honor of AndressFest '07 and the woman of the moment, I created a cocktail that I dubbed The Golden Ursula.

This year, to celebrate AndressFest '08, I created a new cocktail:

The Dirty Ursula

5ml sweet vermouth
2 tsp pulped flesh from a plum
100ml chilled vodka
a long sliver of red chili for garnish

Mix all ingredients and stir vigorously, so that the plum pulp rises up and muddies the clear vodka.

Sorry, but the temptation to make a drink called "the dirty Ursula" was too strong. I would have made The Chaste Ursula, but frankly I don't think the necessary ingredients exist.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Miraculous (Part 2)

Our second film for AndressFest ’08 was to be 1973’s ‘Stateline Motel’, but the copy I have wouldn’t play in my DVD player. It serves me right for buying 99c movies off eBay, I guess. As it turned out this was probably for the best, because when I watched part of it later on my computer, it turned out to be… well, less than suitable for a mixed audience. The soundtrack didn’t actually have any wocka chicka wocka music, but it may as well have. The Italians who made it obviously liked to spice up their dramas with a little nudita gratuito.

But since ‘Stateline Motel’ wouldn’t play, we turned instead to 1970’s ‘Red Sun’. If the words “spaghetti western”, “Charles Bronson”, “some samurai dude” and “Ursula playing a prostitute” don’t make you slaver like Pavlov’s dog trapped in a carillion, then frankly I wonder why you’re even bothering to read about AndressFest.

An American, a Frenchman, a Japanese and a Hot Blonde Swiss Bikini Babe. It's just like the UN... only better!

It's the late 1880s, and a band of outlaws led by Gauche (Alain Delon) and Link (Charles Bronson) stages an audacious train robbery. Along with the payroll and the valuables of the passengers, they also steal an antique samurai sword from the Japanese ambassador to the United States, who intended it to be a gift to the American President.

Before they can all get away, however, Gauche double-crosses Link and tosses a stick of dynamite into the train carriage he's looting. Link survives, and finds himself in the none-too-gentle hands of Kuroda Jubie (Toshiro Mifune), the Ambassador's only surviving samurai guard. Kuroda wants the sword, Link wants the gold, and both of them want revenge. So off they head in search of Gauche and his men.

There follows several scenes of amusing pratfalls and japery as Link tries to get away from Kuroda, whom he considers a liability rather than an asset. Frankly, it starts to look like one of those movies with narration on the trailer that goes something like: “When a taciturn Japanese warrior teams up with a cowboy with a face like a mummified apple core, you just know they’re on a collision course with wackiness!”

Saints preserve us all.

Fortunately, the film is saved from falling into ‘Shanghai Noon’ territory by the appearance of our Ursula as Cristina, who is, quel surprise, a feisty prostitute. She’s also the sometime girlfriend of Gauche, and Link figures that if he kidnaps her, he can trade her to Gauche for the gold.

One wonders what sort of unsuccessful career Gauche is having if the love of his life has to stay on the game to support herself. But this is the Wild West, and if one takes Westerns at face value a woman’s only career options at that time were prostitute and grim-faced widow. Given that choice, it’s small wonder that Ursula’s character preferred the path of the cat house floozy. Also if she’d been a widow woman, there would have been fewer excuses to see her boobies, and where would we be then?

Unfortunately it’s soon after this that the plot gets exhausted by all the stretching and flexing it’s having to do to find excuses to show Ursula’s boobies, and it slinks off into the sunset, never to be seen again. A bunch of bloodthirsty Commanches are thrown into the mix, along with Gauche’s apparently never-ending supply of henchmen, so there’s always someone attacking someone else on screen, but it’s impossible to care.

The Greater Breasted Ursula lurks in the long grass, choosing exactly the right moment to pounce on an unsuspecting mate.

The film ends as films always ended in the 70s – everyone who wasn’t dead probably wished they were. Link lost his gold, Cristina lost her man, Kuroda lost his life and the Commanches lost whatever shreds of dignity their tribal name still held. The only positive seemed to be for the President, as the ambassador eventually got his sword back, which presumably meant that it was given to the President as originally intended.

So I guess the moral of the movie is: if you want good things to happen to you, become the President. There’s a lesson in that for all of us. At least for all of us who aren’t being distracted by Ursula’s boobies.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Miraculous (Part 1)

AndressFest is over for another year, and as usual it was a wonderful, even mystical experience. Mystical, you say? Well, there was a full bottle of vodka on the kitchen bench at the beginning of the evening, and by the end it was an empty bottle of vodka. Just one of the many Miracles of AndressFest!

Our first movie for AndressFest '08 was 1966's 'The Blue Max'. In World War I, a young man of common birth rises up through the ranks to become an officer and a fighter pilot, back in the days when a fighter plane was slower than a Trabant and made out of the same materials as the average umbrella. He becomes obsessed with winning Germany's most coveted military medal for aviators, known as the Blue Max. Nothing – not family, not friendship, not honour, not Ursula Andress clad in nothing but a pair of small towels – will deter him.

What an idiot.

So, let's have a look at the sort of people we're dealing with here.

George Peppard as Bruno Stachel. Before cheesing it up in the ridiculous but seminal 80s TV show 'The A Team', George Peppard made a good living in Hollywood playing sleek, amoral young men. His eerily smooth skin and chiseled good looks made him perfect for playing slick, insincere adventurers.

War is hell. Mind you so is driving around in a silly van with a bunch of idiots solving mysteries…

James Mason as General Count von Klugermann. James had a long and lucrative career basically playing one of two people: the Good James Mason and the Evil James Mason. He was always James Mason, but sometimes he was chivalrous, brave and upstanding, and sometimes he was manipulative, venal and corrupt. In The Blue Max he’d set the acting switch in his back to “evil” in order to play a ruthless General willing to jettison all moral law and decency to further his career and the war effort.

Hmmm… we're going to need smaller pilots.

Jeremy Kemp as Willi von Klugermann. Jeremy played Stachel's rival for both air supremacy and the attentions of Ursula, but he was an unusual choice for the role, given that he looks like a Ken doll that's been chewed by a dog and then run through the dishwasher. Willi is both Ursula's nephew and her lover, a partnership which is in questionable taste even for Germans. Still, if that's the most inappropriate relationship one of Ursula's characters ever had, I'll change my name to Helga and take up clog dancing.

"Gentlemen; To Evil!"

And then there’s Ursula as Countess Kaeti von Klugermann. She's as lovely as ever, gadding about in a number of snappy ensembles, from her pink housedress…

It's Homewrecker Barbie!

to her brown traveling outfit…

"My chocolate soufflé fell, darling, but think I've found a way to salvage it."

to the luckiest towels on the planet.

The towels later sold on eBay for 3.1 million dollars.

As usual, Ursula was at her most effective when she just played herself: a feisty seductress brimming with steamy passion. When she's required to show any other emotion – remorse, grief, guilt, reverence, wistfulness – she crashes and burns faster than a Chinese airliner.

That said, it still wasn’t a bad movie, and one may well wonder why it isn't more famous. While very long, it's well-paced and beautifully filmed. The vast, complicated battle scenes are exquisitely choreographed, with hundreds of running soldiers, explosions and low-flying aircraft all flawlessly timed to be caught by panning cameras. Today we'd just do it with CGI, but this was all real; real extras, real explosives and real biplanes.

Perhaps 'The Blue Max' has been forgotten for the same reason that all AndressFest movies have been forgotten: the Curse of Ursula. With the exception of 'Dr No', she seems to have had that effect on the cultural destiny of every movie she ever made.

This was certainly the case in our second AndressFest '08 movie, 'Red Sun', to be reviewed tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Some years ago I was chatting with the younger brother of a friend. He was an easy person to chat to, and an easy person to get along with. He was outrageously good looking (from the neck up he looked like a teen movie star, while from the neck down he looked like an underwear model), charming, amusing, good-hearted, considerate and modest. Everyone liked him, including me, until he mentioned that he wanted to take some philosophy courses at university and really train up his mind.

Like hell you will, I remember thinking. You're young, buff, handsome and charming... you are NOT ALLOWED TO BE SMART AS WELL! Smart is the only thing we old, flabby, plain, dull people have going for us! Take that from us and how are we supposed to justify our existences? You selfish bastard!

I was reminded of that moment when I came across the story of Max Gogarty, a young man who led a charmed life right up until the day when he presumed to add "travel writer for The Guardian" to his already overloaded resume. Despite appearances it wasn't nepotism that unleashed the raging, hilarious torrent of vilification. It was, to use a metaphor from nature, the fact that an ignorant, pampered cub had tried to snatch the choicest bit of meat from the carcass while the rest of the pride chewed on gristle.

Follow the links, and feel the full, majestic glory of schadenfreude. Mmm... it feels good.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Ursula Andress – a puzzle wrapped in an enigma submerged in a riddle and then subsequently drowned in mystery.

It takes a certain kind of talent to act with the biggest stars, work with the hottest directors and become a household name, all on the back of a filmography of unrelenting stinkers. Specifically, it takes a talent for looking like this:

This is why I host the annual phenomenon that is AndressFest: to celebrate the woman who realised that movie stardom comes from who you are, not what you do. Especially when what you do is feature in total turkeys.

If you're going to be in Perth on Thursday March 20, and you'd like to attend AndressFest '08, send me an email at yevadwerdna (at) hotmail (dot) com and I'll send you an invite. If not for me, then do it for Ursula.

Friday, March 07, 2008


I love this photo that a friend emailed to me:

Either it's a young turtle at a rave ("wave your flippers in the air like you just don't care!"), or an old turtle yelling at the kids to get off his lawn kelp.

Thursday, March 06, 2008


The first indicator of a bad movie is when the title has little, if anything, to do with the content. And as 1973's 'Stranded in Space' features exactly zero instances of anyone being trapped in space, we can assume that it's a bad movie and either avoid or embrace it according to personal taste.

'Stranded in Space's badness merely begins with its title; it's reinforced by one of the most inept colourisation jobs in the history of this oft-derided practice. Sometimes the only colour on the screen is some guy's ochre-tinted head, bobbing across the grey-on-grey set like a lumpy jellyfish.

Once you get over what amounts to random splashes of colour in an otherwise black and white movie, you're then forced to confront the plot. Astronaut Neil Stryker, the only survivor of a crashed NASA rocket, finds himself cast away on Earth's hitherto unsuspected twin planet, Terra, which orbits our sun in such a way that it's always eclipsed from our view. This alternate Earth is an exact copy of our planet, right down to the mountains and valleys having their twin on the other world, and having identical spoken and written English. The only differences are as follows:

1. Everyone on Terra is lefthanded. Not just most people - every single person. So presumably this means that their language is exactly the same as English, except for words like "gauche", "adroit" and "sinister", which all owe their meanings to the fact that most people on Earth are righthanded. One must also assume that the producers of 'Stranded in Space' were either going have to a) hire only lefthanded actors to maintain consistency or b) not let a piffling thing like consistency get in their way.

2. Terra has three moons. So somehow every mountain and valley on Earth has a twin on Terra, despite the vast differences in tidal forces and erosion caused by three satellites rather than one.

3. All of Terra is controlled by a sinister world government known only as The Perfect Order, which tolerates dissent about as well as Jeremy Clarkson tolerates Toyota Priuses.

The agents of The Perfect Order are very oddly dressed for Orwellian fascists. Here on Earth our fascists have traditionally favoured uber-military outfits, with lots of shiny black boots, angular hats and sternly-pressed uniforms. However on Terra the rulers gad about in black skivvys under classic grey double breasted suits. They're simply not dressed for taking over the world, unless they imagine that this can be achieved by drinking martinis at cocktail parties and attended beat poetry performances.

So Neil Stryker is trapped on a world run by stylishly-dressed men who gad about telling other people how they may or may not live their lives, brooking no dissent and rewriting history to suit their own purposes. Hmmm... I put it to you that our hero isn't so much "Stranded in Space" as "Stranded Inside George Clooney's Head".

Stryker almost manages to stow away on a rocket in an attempt to get back to Earth, but as 'Stranded in Space' was originally intended to the pilot for a TV series called 'The Stranger', he fails. After all, there's no point in setting up all this fanciful alterna-Earth nonsense if your hero gets away from the place within the first two hours. Indeed, you can't even kill off the bad guys, since they're going to be needed next week to make the hero's life exciting and conflict-filled. Get rid of them and who will Stryker have differences of opinion with... other than lunar astronomers, English teachers and Mr Blackwell?

So after the entire length of the movie, nothing has really changed. We have, however, learned one thing. The fact that this TV series was never made forces us to conclude, reluctantly, that network executives are not idiots.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


From today's newspaper:

Afterwards Mr Gates challenged reporters to catch him and win his pot of gold, before leaping off over the rainbow with a magical laugh.

Monday, March 03, 2008


I had a phone call at work on Friday afternoon. It was The Flatmate, ringing to tell me that our hot water system was gushing water across the back patio.

It makes sense. It's the Friday afternoon before a long weekend - of course the water heater is going to choose this moment to have a hissy fit.

After a few minutes thought I decided to go home and check on it myself, just in case it might be possible to fix it before 5pm rolled around and the world closed down for three days. A long weekend of cold showers is no long weekend at all.

When I got there, investigations revealed that a little flange on a plastic cap had weakened, probably from stresses as the water pressure rose and fell over the years. Eventually it had snapped, allowing the pressure of the water to blow the cap off. The cap held the hydro generator (a little turbine that generates the spark that ignites the gas when the water is turned on) in place, so when the cap blew off the generator blew out too. With them out of the way, the water gushed out even when the hot water taps were turned off, and I had an innovative new water feature in my back garden.

Being men, we tried jamming the cap back in place with chocks of wood, but water just squirted out of the sides. So I rang a couple of plumbing supply places to see if they had a replacement cap in stock. Of course they didn't, since that would allow people like me to repair their water heaters for a couple of bucks. Apparently the entire hydro generator would need to be replaced. I asked if they had a replacement hydro generator in stock. And of course they didn't. They did however tell me how much Bosch charged for a replacement part. Apparently Bosch can't cover the vast expense of manufacturing a moulded plastic pipe with a tiny plastic turbine in it for less than $200. If cost is anything to go by, that makes a moulded plastic pipe with a tiny plastic turbine in it as fiendishly complicated to build as a 4Gb iPod Nano.

Fortunately I was not out of options. I called my plumber, who in the proud tradition of his trade refered me to someone else, and that someone else discovered that he had some spare hydro generators in his van. He came by on Saturday morning, cannibalised parts from three old hydro generators to create a single functional one, and installed it in my water heater. Total cost was $110, as opposed to over $300 if it had been a new one.

I celebrated by doing the washing up.