eegah poster

Eegah (1962)

Eegah (1962)
Directed by Arch Hall Sr.
Starring Arch Hall Jr, Richard Kiel, Marilyn Manning, Arch Hall Sr

Arch Hall Sr started his career in radio as a writer and performer. He served in the Air Force as a pilot during WW2, his goofy antics during this period oddly enough were the subject of a mainstream war-comedy “The Last Time I Saw Archie (1961)”, directed by Jack Webb (Dragnet) and starring Robert Mitchum as Arch Hall. In the same year Arch began producing his own films on a much, much smaller budget. The first film he made was “Magic Spectacles”, a nudie flick with a rather self-explanatory title. His next film “The Choppers” would introduce the world to Arch’s teenage son, appropriately named Arch Hall Jr.

From this point on Junior would appear in almost all of daddy’s movies. Arch was a guitar swinging rock’n’roller and his father’s plan was to market him as a teen heartthrob via these cheap little movies. Most of the films allow Junior the chance to show off his guitar and singing talents, in “Eegah” he performs at least three songs in their entirety. In 2005 Norton Records released a long overdue collection of Junior’s songs including rare recordings and live performances as well as tunes from his movies. Arch Hall Sr produced a handful of flicks between 1961 and 1965; he also worked with other cult filmmakers such as Ray Dennis Steckler (The Incredibly Strange Creatures That Stopped Living And Became Mixed Up Zombies) and Ted V Mikels (The Corpse Grinders). He died in 1978 from a heart attack.

“Eegah” is a film with an extraordinary low-budget, despite this fact it was very successful financially and is quite entertaining for the absurd junk it is. Written, directed and starring Arch Hall Sr under various pseudonyms and with a cast of unknown amateur actors including his aforementioned son, his secretary Manning and Richard Kiel, a tenant of Hall’s whose rent was overdue. Kiel’s career was quite successful after this debut and he is best known for his role as the villain Jaws in several James Bond movies.

“Eegah” is the story of a couple of teenage lovers Roxy and Tommy (Manning & Junior) that witness a giant, prehistoric caveman in the Californian desert. Nobody believes their story except for Roxy’s father Robert Miller, a renowned novelist of adventure stories. Miller sets out in a helicopter to find the giant caveman but is captured by Eegah and taken back to his cave.

Eegah is the last of his kind and lives in a cave with the mummified remains of his family. The corpses of his dead relatives are incredibly dodgy looking, possibly made from paper-mache. When Miller doesn’t return home from his expedition Tommy and Roxy set out in their dune-buggy to find him. Unfortunately Eegah finds Roxy first and she in inducted into the caveman family where she is reunited with her father. Inside the cave Roxy is fed raw meat, teaches Eegah to shave and tries to thwart Eegah’s constant attempts to fondle her rude bits.

Upon discovering Eegah’s lair Tommy helps the Millers to escape from the caveman’s clutches. The lovelorn Eegah leaves the desert in pursuit of Roxy, following her scent all the way back to civilisation where he terrorises a rock’n’roll pool party that Tommy and Roxy are attending.

This movie is really just harmless fun. It’s squeaky clean and doesn’t offer the gore or nudity that are present in many low-budget flicks of the day. The plot is minimal and the acting and direction are fairly mundane but it does have its moments. Such as Junior’s cheesy songs, the scene where Roxy shaves Eegah’s beard off and the silly dune-buggy chase scenes. For me it was fun to watch but I wouldn’t give it a high recommendation. Oh, movie nerds look out for the cameo scene where Eegah pushes Ray Dennis Steckler into a swimming pool (of course this is not reason enough to go and buy it).

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Mudhoney (1965)

Mudhoney (1965)
Directed by Russ Meyer
Starring Hal Hopper, Antoinette Christiani, John Furlong

Recently I was lucky enough to acquire a box set of 14 Russ Meyer flicks on video. As any fan could tell you these films aren’t that easy to acquire and most of these have never been released on DVD or any other format in Australia.

Russ was a pioneer in low budget nudie and exploitation filmmaking. Many people would simply brand Meyer as a bad director and dump his work into the category of bad films. On the contrary, Meyer was an extremely talented filmmaker who made bold and controversial films that are still both entertaining and daring to this day. Meyer was more than just a dirty-old-man who liked making pictures about boobs as many people would lead to you to believe.

One of the best films Meyer made was Mudhoney, this movie is a good demonstration of his skill, technique and unique vision. Unlike many of Meyer’s other productions nudity and sex scenes are minimal, the goofy humour is toned down and violence is not glorified or sexualised. This movie is gritty, disturbing and rather shocking in it’s realistic portrayal of domestic violence and dysfunctional relationships.

Hal Hopper plays Sidney Brenshaw, a repulsive drunk who savagely beats and rapes his wife Hannah (played by Christiani). Sid and Hannah live on a farm owned by Hannah’s uncle Lute. Lute is a good man and a hard worker. He cannot understand why Hannah tolerates her husband’s violent behaviour. When Sid isn’t beating her he spends his time drinking at Maggie Marie’s brothel and screwing her two hillbilly-hooker daughters. Sid barely lifts a finger to help run the farm so Lute and Hannah decide to hire a farmhand. A stranger arrives in town looking for work. His name is Calif and he is hired almost immediately.

Despite learning that Calif is fresh out of prison Lute trusts him and sees him a more suitable partner for his niece Hannah. Problems with Sidney are escalating, he is becoming increasingly more violent, self-destructive and abusive to his wife. Calif has become more protective of Hannah and it seems a romance is beginning to bloom which only drives Sidney more insane with jealousy.

Lute is not healthy and fears he may die soon which excites Sidney who is already planning and scheming about what he will do with his half of the inheritance. About the time we learn of Sid’s scheme to leave Hannah with half the loot, he learns of Lute’s plan to leave his entire estate in Calif’s name. With the aid of a hypocritical preacher Sidney plans a diabolical plot to ruin the lives of Lute, Hannah and Calif once and for all.

It may not provide the titillation that most of Meyer’s films offer, but it certainly packs a punch with its powerful drama and cartoonish over-the-top characterization of evil. Lorna Maitland and Rena Horten play the scantily clad sisters who jiggle their wares at Mama’s little whorehouse and provide much of the humour in this black comedy. Horten’s character is a deaf and mute innocent who adores Sidney’s affections no matter how repulsively he treats her. She is Sidney’s polar opposite in this film. Mama Maggie Marie is played by Princess Livingston; a toothless, rubber-faced hag who appears in a few other Meyer flicks. Her hammy performance cannot be expressed in mere words. Hal Hopper oozes slime in a fantastically despicable performance as Sidney. Meyer’s black and white cinematography is aesthetically beautiful and adds a touch of class to the brutality and sleazy epic of rural melodrama. A must see.