Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Over the weekend I made a couple of new acquisitions.

Firstly, on Sunday morning I was given these artificial grave flowers, which are probably around a hundred years old.

Some friends were bushwalking in the Kalgoorlie area and found them lying in the dust, presumably in a long-forgotten graveyard. They assumed that both the leaves and the flowers were tin, but the flowers are actually fine porcelain. The craftsmanship on them is quite astonishing.

Secondly, late on Sunday afternoon I finally managed to get inside an antique shop in Maylands that has wonderful things in the window but never seems to be open. I quickly discovered the reason for this: the owner is insane.

Not just insane... barking delusional old Russian man insane. He talked - loudly, aggressively, bitterly and endlessly - the whole time I was in his shop. Why does no one in this country appreciate fine antiques? he demanded as I browsed through the silverware, in a way that suggested that any answer other than smiling and nodding would only make him angier. This vase is Lalique, this soap is Savon de Marseille, that jug is Carlton Ware, but you philistines only want your bigscreen TVs! I have a book here about Lord By-Ron (pronounced as if he were a minor character from a Superman comic) but nobody here even knows who he is! Why do you people not appreciate art and culture and learning? If I were in London I would have people in my store all day long, but here I only had four customers yesterday!

You'd have more people in your store if you opened for more than ten minutes at a time, I reflected. The Lalique vase is a very crude example, there's a crack in that Carlton Ware jug, and I may not be the most cultivated man in the world, but even I know that it's pronounced Marsay, not Marsales. You noisy old bigot.

I eventually shut him up by waving money in his face and declaring that I wanted to buy some candle holders. It calmed him down, briefly, as if he had suddenly remembered that people who want to give you money = a good thing. Unfortunately handing him money meant that I was a captive audience until he'd wrapped the items and found me some change. However I've had a few dealings with blathering nutjobs over the years (mostly from my time working with ham radio enthusiasts), so I've learnt how to hurry them along and cut them short. If I hadn't, I'd probably still be trapped in a stullifying conversation about vacuum tubes that began in 1995. The trick is to remind yourself that, probably through no fault of their own, these people can't read social cues. As such, you don't have to worry about appearing rude.

So when our transaction was complete, I simply thanked him and walked out of the shop, with him still bellowing about Stewart crystal and ignorant Australians to my retreating back.

I do like the candle holders. They're not signed, but judging from the style and the craftsmanship they're probably from the late 60s or early 70s, and possibly Danish.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


In an age in which accomplished Hollywood actors are more than happy to do TV, it can be hard to remember that things weren’t always this way. Back in the 1980s, if you were a successful movie actor, making the transition to TV was the kiss of death for your career, the thing you only did when all other avenues were closed. Only the callow, the desperate and the washed up considered it.

And made-for-TV movies? That was the most ignominious humiliation of all.

Other than doing a sequel to a made-for-TV movie, that is.

Which brings us to our final AndressFest ’11 film, 1989’s extravagantly-titled ‘Man Against The Mob: The Chinatown Murders’.

Detective Frank Doakey (George Peppard) is an honest cop who is assigned to investigate the murder of a bum on the Los Angeles docks. But as he delves further into the case, more bodies start to appear, including a couple of beautiful young Chinese girls. The people in Chinatown refuse to answer his questions, but Doakey is persistent and slowly uncovers a conspiracy of sex trafficking, crooked cops, mafia hits and, of course, Ursula Andress’ acting.

Ursula plays Betty Starr, an evil nightclub owner, and gets three costumes, three scenes, and a chance to catch up with George Peppard, with whom she starred in the 1966 war epic ‘The Blue Max’. Ursula puts in a serviceable performance, but it’s clear that both she and the producers of ‘The Chinatown Murders’ are coasting. She makes no attempt to give a character named Betty Starr an American accent, and the scriptwriters didn’t bother to change the name to something better suited to her teutonic vowels. And just because it’s supposed to be the late 1940s doesn’t mean that Ursula has to change the hairstyle that’s served her well for twenty years. After all, it’s only TV, dahling.

Despite all this, the funny thing about ‘The Chinatown Murders’ is that it’s actually an engaging little movie. Some of the supporting characters are miscast, and the sets betray the budget mindset of the TV movie, but it’s a well-crafted story and the film snaps along at a good pace. George Peppard, especially, plays his role with aplomb that the rest of the cast can’t quite match. Frankly many of them have more determination than talent, but hey, that’s the world of the TV movie. Ursula works quite well when she’s flirting and delivering veiled threats with Doakey, but I’ve seen more convincing death scenes from little kids forced to eat brussel sprouts.

The other flaw in hiring elderly, washed up actors is that they tend to have let themselves go. Ursula was still in good shape, but her male co-stars had clearly not been hitting the gym to more accurately play tough 1940s policemen.

Here’s a little gallery I like to call ‘Great Straining Beltlines of The Chinatown Murders’:

A few more sit-ups and a few less pies would have made a big difference. But meh… it’s only TV.

Monday, March 28, 2011


What Ursula Andress’ body of work lacks in quality it certainly makes up for in quantity. In 1976, for example, she starred in four different movies, which was more than Audrey Hepburn, Meryl Streep and Jane Fonda combined. True, all of those movies were terrible, but then no director ever cast her expecting finely nuanced cinema.

A case in point is 1976’s ‘Africa Express’. Let’s face it, when one of your co-stars is a monkey, it’s pretty much guaranteed that you’re not doing a classy BBC adaptation of ‘Pride and Prejudice’.

Although now that I think about it, that would be totally awesome.

AndressFester PM wanted everyone to know that, technically, chimpanzees aren’t monkeys.

The film begins auspiciously, with Giuliano Gemma playing cards with Jack Palance while his pet monkey Biba helps him cheat. Jack Palance, doing the usual bad guy schtick that paid his taxes between 1968 and 1991, becomes suspicious and the inevitable fight breaks out. Giuliano barely escapes with his winnings and his life, and Jack vows revenge.

PM insists that you remember that chimpanzees aren’t really monkeys. Apparently this matters.

Meanwhile, somewhere nearby, a train is hijacked by a gang of villains searching for three people. Two of those people are shot and killed, but the third, Ursula Andress, escapes in disguise after beating up a nun and stealing her habit. While walking down a lonely road she meets up with Giuliano in his truck, and he, believing her to be a nun, offers to take her to the local mission. It's soon after this that we encounter the movie's single greatest scene: Ursula Andress lasciviously eating a banana while dressed as a nun.

Basically it’s the high point of the 1970s, if not the entire 20th century.

With the sexual tension and the attendant whack of Catholic guilt running high, Giuliano delivers Ursula to the mission and tries to get back to his life as a delivery man. But he can’t get Ursula out of his mind, especially when he discovers that Jack Palance is gunning for both of them.

It turns out that Ursula is a British secret agent, a concept just slightly less unbelievable than that of her being a nun. She has evidence that Jack Palance is running an international ivory poaching gang, and it’s clear that Jack will stop at nothing to silence her. Only if she and Giuliano, plus his pet monkey, various natives, a drunken riverboat captain and some fat German chorus girls work together will they stand a chance of defeating the evil Palance.

Seriously, PM demands that you all acknowledge that chimpanzees aren’t monkeys. I think they’re reptiles or something. I don’t know.

While considerably better than ‘The Loves and Times of Scaramouche’, 'Africa Express' was still an awful, awful movie. When Italian misogyny meets the Zimbabwean sense of humour, the results are bound to be dire. The dialogue was as clunky as one would expect from something that had been dragged, kicking and screaming, from Italian into English. The moments of comic relief appeared to have been sourced from a cut-rate local version of Benny Hill. The cinematography rendered Africa's famous natural beauty as a drab and anonymous landscape.

So why was this movie made at all?

Ah, yes. Take that, quality cinema!

Saturday, March 26, 2011


You've got to feel sorry for Scaramouche.

For a start, it must be hard living up to the prestige of receiving a shout out in one of the most iconic rock songs of all time. While the rest of the Bohemian Rhapsody crew went on to greater things (Galileo getting a series of space probes, Figaro becoming a retro Japanese car with a cult following, and Beelzebub doing rather well for himself in Hollywood), Scaramouche went on to do an Ursula Andress movie, and as such has now been completely forgotten.

That movie was 1976’s ‘The Loves and Times of Scaramouche’.

The opening credits font: straight from a 10 year old’s pencil case to the silver screen!

It's the French Revolution. Feckless lothario Scarmouche spends his time dashing around Paris, making love to innumerable women and dodging the flashing swords of their enraged husband. Things take a decided turn for the worse when he is mistakenly blamed for an assassination attempt on the life of the Emperor Bonaparte, and, while making his escape, he and his best friend Whistle are dragooned into the army and packed off to Italy to fight the Austrians and the Russians. Once they get there, Scaramouche immediately seduces the only hot blonde within 50 miles.

Yes she’s blonde and attractive, but she’s not Ursula. This is of course an outrage.

When they try to desert from the army, Scaramouche and Whistle accidentally set off a conflict between the Austrians and the Russians. The Russian commander surrenders to them, which thwarts their plans to just slip away from the war. On their way back to their base, they come across the Empress Josephine, played by our Ursula, and inevitably Scaramouche has his way with her.

Apparently women shaved their legs in the 18th century. Who knew?

Or should I say, who cares?

Josephine and Scaramouche part ways, and he and Whistle continue back to their base. In attempting to hand over the Russian commander, and thus become heroes, they become embroiled in the increasingly, and annoyingly, madcap attempts of the real assassins to kill Napoleon, whom they have lured out to the front.

Then Josephine joins them, which allows for at least one scene absolutely crucial to the development of the plot.

This is possibly the breast scene in the movie, or at least the most mammorable.

Eventually the real assassins are found out, there’s a big chase scene with covered wagons, and they are vanquished. Then, as a riff on the James Bond theme plays, Ursula rises up out of the water in a homage to (or rather a clumsy lunge at) her breakout role in 1962’s ‘Dr No’.

"Do you expect me to talk? Because I don't really do talk."

And here we have the problem with the entire rendition of the movie. Ironically, given that Scaramouche is traditionally a stock character in European theatre, in this movie the real stock character was Ursula Andress. By the mid 70s Ursula was so famous, even iconic, for being a smoking hot sex queen that she was included in movies simply to represent the concept rather than to act a role. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, given that there are ficus plants that could act more convincingly than Ursula. But it's still sad to see Ursula inserted into a film as a piece of lazy conceptual shorthand.

As for the other, non-Ursulan parts of this movie… they were terrible. The fight scenes were ponderous and drab, the humour was about as fresh as a Frenchman’s underpants, and the entire soundtrack consisted of awful, synth-heavy music which was about as thematically appropriate as scoring the shower scene from 'Psycho' with the theme from 'Murder, She Wrote'.

So ‘The Loves and Times of Scaramouche’ was basically a disaster. Fortunately the assembled AndressFesters knew two things. One, there was still plenty of booze. And two, our second movie for AndressFest ’11 had a monkey in it. You can’t go wrong with a monkey.

Or so we thought.

Friday, March 25, 2011


AndressFest is over for another year, and once again we’ve tasted the best that bad cinema has to offer.

Six men and one very tolerant woman met at my place to celebrate the wonder that is Ursula. As usual I had prepared some appropriate food and drinks. Some people claim to see the Virgin Mary's face in tortillas, but at AndressFest, we see Ursula Andress in the snacks.

But not her face.

As is always the case at AndressFest, I invented a new cocktail to celebrate the woman of the hour. I wanted to create something that reflected her attributes and appeal… but having exhausted all of my culinary boobie references on the snack food, I was forced to be more esoteric with the booze. To that end, may I introduce you to... the Spicy Ursula!

The Spicy Ursula

Combine 5mls of Becherovka* and 25mls of chili vodka in a glass. Top up with lemonade, then pour 5mls of grenadine into the centre of the drink, so that it sinks and forms a layer at the bottom. Garnish with a whole red chilli.

It’s Ursulicious! This may explain why I drank so many of them... although the movies of AndressFest ’11 could have something to do with that as well.

* wretched cinnamon-flavored Czech bitters, given to me as a Secret Santa present by someone who clearly wants me dead.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Apparently there is a correlation between women who crochet beanies to sell on and miserable boyfriends. Who could have suspected such a thing?

Colour me shocked, for one. In a highly scientific study infused with more hipsters than a Park Slope organic bakery, brings you 20 Sad Etsy Boyfriends.

Friday, March 11, 2011


What can one say about AndressFest, my annual festival of Ursula Andress movies? Other than "No, please, have mercy!" or "Gaaah! The pain! The pain!"?

Bah! Such people are wimps. AndressFest is only for those who are valiant of heart, strong of stomach and perverted of brain. These are the brave souls who will be joining me at 7pm this Friday night, 18 March 2011, for the pleasure, the pain and the requisite amounts of alcohol associated with AndressFest '11!

If you think you have what it takes to appreciate the peaks of Ursula's career - both of them - please email me at yevadwerdna(at)hotmail(dot)com for details. If you don't... well, I pity you.

AndressFest '11 - because Ursula Andress movies don't watch themselves, you know.

Monday, March 07, 2011


While getting a feel for the second-hand scooter market, I came across this advertisement:

Is it just me, or does "The scooter was revised" sound rather ominous? Although admittedly not half as ominous as the idea of going "overseases", presumably with The Precious.

But whatever this "revision" entailed, it must have been impressive to warrant the $75,000 price tag. I've narrowed the possibilities down to a) the scooter being granted the power to raise the dead, b) solid platinum wheels, or c) the Lingerie Model Riding Pillion upgrade package.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011


How does one tell the difference between a masterpiece of trashy exploitation cinema, like ‘Slave of the Cannibal God’ or ‘Women in Cages’, and a piece of dull incoherent dreck that can only be tolerated with liberal infusions of hard liquor?

I find it useful to ask these four simple questions:

1. Was it made in the 1970s?

2. Is the title more or less meaningless?

3. Was it filmed in a third world country?

4. Is Pam Grier notably absent?

If the answer to any of those questions is “no”, there’s a chance that the movie might actually turn out to be enjoyable… especially as regards the Pam Grier bit. If, however, the answer to all questions is “yes”, then you’re probably watching 1971’s ‘The Beast of the Yellow Night’, and it’s time to admit that you’re totally boned.

I really tried to pay attention, and it’s not as if I’m not inured to the slings and arrows of incompetent filmmakers. But seriously, I couldn’t work out what was going on. What little I could discern is as follows:

In 1946 a man gets lost in the jungle. On the verge of starvation, he meets the devil, who makes him some sort of offer.

He accepts, and the devil seems happy enough. I guess that’s not a good thing, unless you’re the devil. He gives the man a big pile of steaming offal to eat, which seals the deal. I think. Or maybe the devil had just run over a bunny and decided not to waste it.

Thirty years later, the devil puts the man’s soul into the body of some guy who is about to die. I didn’t catch why, but he’s the devil, so it’s probably not to bring more rainbows and cupcakes into the world. This is odd, because I’d thought the whole point of the man selling his soul to the devil was to save his life, and yet there doesn’t seem to be anything left of him except his disembodied soul. Then again, if anyone’s going to gyp you in a deal, it’d be the devil.

The guy, now with extra soul, stops being about to die and gets better. His wife, who never wears pants, seems happy.

However it’s clear that the guy now has too much soul. We know this because he occasionally transmogrifies into James Brown.

Ironically, given that he’s James Brown, he doesn’t feel good. In fact whenever he turns into James Brown he goes around killing people and eating their innards. Maybe this is what all James Browns do, but the movie didn’t make it clear one way or the other.

When he’s not being James Brown, the guy upsets his business partner. The wife continues to not wear pants.

When he is being James Brown, and finishes killing people, he finds sanctuary with some old blind man. This gives him a chance to come down from his Brownian bender and turn back into a boring white dude.

Meanwhile, the wife does not wear pants.

The police manage to draw a connection between the guy and the James Brown-related killings. However they are unable to keep him in custody on suspicion of being James Brown, because this is not a crime except perhaps in Alabama.

Eventually the guy and the old blind man escape together, in order to achieve something. I didn’t catch what this might be. Join the competitive ice dancing circuit, possibly. Unfortunately they are stopped by a police roadblock, James Brown rears his ugly head, said ugly head bites the old blind man to death, and the police bring him down in a hail of bullets.

And so The Beast of the Yellow Night, assuming that the title refers to the monster dude and not some other character, dies. The devil turns into a snake and slithers off, chuckling to himself, which must be pretty hard to do when you’re a snake. Whether or not he’s achieved his evil aims is unclear, since we never knew what those evil aims were in the first place, but I guess if he’s the devil they had to be evil. Now at least he has some free time to do whatever it is the devil does when he has free time. Have pie with Hitler or something, I don’t know.

There’s also an implication that in death the guy is now free from the devil’s control. So perhaps he’d only leased his soul to the devil. Presumably the devil now gets to lease a fresh new soul and the guy gets to auction his off at one of those depressing public sales. Win win.

Except for the members of the audience, who are now drunk, bored and inexplicably feeling like a sex machine.