Monday, October 19, 2009

The Last House On The Left (1972, 2009), The Virgin Spring (1960)

The Last House On The Left

Released August 30, 1972
Directed by Wes Craven
Written by Wes Craven, Ulla Isaakson
Lobster Enterprises

Cast: Sandra Peabody, Lucy Grantham, David Hess, Fred Lincoln, Jeramie Rain, Mark Sheffler

The Last House On The Left

Released March 13, 2009
Directed by Dennis Liadis
Written by Adam Alleca, Carl Ellsworth, Wes Craven

Cast: Tony Goldwyn, Monica Potter, Garrett Dillahunt, Aaron Paul, Spencer Treat Clark, Riki Lindhome,

Released November 14, 1960
Directed by Ingmar Bergman
Written by Ulla Isaaksson
Released by Svensk Filmindustri

Cast: Max von Sydow, Birgitta Valberg, Gunnel Lindblom, Birgitta Petterson, Axel Duberg

It tickles me pink that the two 'Last House On The Left' movies are ultimately based on a medieval ballad 'Tores Dotter I Vange", a lyric that explains the appearance of a well that sprung just outside of Malmskogen, Sweden, right at the site where two maidens lost their heads. The legend of the Church of Karna that was built upon the site and the wellspring that had sprung nearby is a gothic creation myth that gives rise to a truly juicy rumor: Supposedly this well is haunted by apparitions of the girls to this day which is reason enough to consider a hike through this 'Sweden' place, land of socialized healthcare.

I'm convinced that this kind of mythological stew makes for some primal cinematic horror and if I should ever take a stab at horror I'll be taking a second look at folk tales and legends for divine inspiration. The makers of 'Blair Witch Project' were hellishly clever for conjuring their own folk tale, the backstory that gave such levity to what essentially was Hansel & Gretel retooled for the indie crowd. I was moved by BWP -- not scared necessarily, but moved.

The BWP creators (Daniel Myrick & Eduardo Sanchez) understood one fundamental principle of horror and that is The Humiliation Factor. To see fellow humans taken over, dominated, degraded and finally obliterated is the kernal of what scares us --- or should, if we're not sadists. Wes Craven's original version of 'The Last House On The Left' was undertaken as a 'hardcore' film which is essentially a genre that depicts gore for gore's sake. How Mr. Craven found his inspiration for his hardcore effort in Ingmar Bergman's vision of the old Swedish fable is choice fodder for a Charlie Rose interview, but it is clear that Craven takes a meta approach to chillers. His body of work includes the 'Nightmare On Elm Street' series (dreams in waking life) and the 'Scream' series which actually directly addresses horror-film conventions. At some point during production Craven opted for a softer approach and so the intestine-pulling scene is merely a fleeting glimpse rather than a tender loving close-up. His tone-shift works to save 'Last House' from utter, grindhouse exploitation. As a result, the influence of Bergman's masterwork 'The Virgin Spring' can actually be detected.
Mari (Sandra Peabody) is your typical early 70's teen queen who wears high-waisted elephant pants and who showcases her bra-less liberated titties primarily for the purpose of upsetting her fusty, Nixon-loving parents. I'd almost forgotten that young folk actually casually flashed the 'v' for peace sign back in the early 70's and I felt sad that The Finger is all that's left of that relic of a gesture. Mari is annoying. She's not the fully blossomed woman she believes herself to be, she's more of a self-absorbed pre-adolescent princess - she mirrors 'Virgin Spring''s obnoxious Karin exactly. She's on her way to the city to catch a Blood Lust concert, ostensibly a Black Sabbath reference, with her bestie Phyllis Stone (Lucy Grantham). Now Phyllis is the shit. Every high school class is blessed with a girl like this: wiser than her years, sassy with an irresistable weed-tempered grin and posessed of the wherewithall to plan ahead and stash a bottle of Boone's in the car, especially for the occasion. She's 'Virgin Spring''s pagan sister only much more fun, a lot less pregnant and creepy. We recognize Phyllis immediately because she's so specific and so thus she has our empathy. Lucy Grantham's acting career evaporated after 'Last House''s end credits which is a shame because she was a brave actress and a warm screen presence.

So Mari and Phyllis go joyriding in Phyllis' car and rock out to some godawful Original Soundtrack music composed and sung by David Hess who also plays Krug, the rapist. "Last House On The Left" is cursed with one of the worst soundtracks ever committed to film. Absolute shit that runs the gamut from burlesque slapstick to Christian Rock-esque treacle. Wikipedia notes the Original Soundtrack sold poorly. Really? Hard to believe. They ride through deep forestation where Mari, buzzed on Boone's, feels all girly and set free astride a rock under tree-dappled sunshine. 'Virgin Spring''s maidens are on their way to deliver candles to the church but pagan sister Ingeri (Gunnel Lindblom) gets the willies and doesn't trot off into the forest alongside foolhardy daddy's-little-princess Karin (Birgitta Petterson). It's interesting that Craven's plot twist doesn't turn with the forest as his final station of evil but instead lets the girls make it to the city where the allure of loitering pot-peddlers prove far too tempting. Bergman's peddlers are goatherds but both films' villains are introduced with a Jew's harp twanging away on the soundtrack. The passive element of villainy is represented by young boys in both works, a heroin addict in 'Last House' and a wide-eyed urchin/goatherd in 'Virgin Spring'. Neither acts to prevent the escalation of events to inevitable rape and both bear the burden of witness.

Mari and Phyllis stupidly conduct their business in the pot-peddler/young boy's apartment and what ensues is a poorly filmed scene wherein the young boy's father and his nefarious pals trap the girls for no apparent reason other than that they're bored and vaguely horny. It's clear that the gang and their random acts of malevolence are intended to echo The Manson Family shenanigans but a sense of escalation or misplaced rage is missing and everyone involved just seems fatigued and restless. Mari stands bug-eyed and paralyzed but unrestrained as Phyllis' rape occurs off-camera. Bergman's Inegri paid witness to Karin's rape and chose not to act also so Craven gets a pass here for adhering to the source material. 'Virgin Spring''s defilement is mostly prelude, but the act itself is shockingly direct, quickly dispatched. Craven's assault is grotesque but largely off-camera but the aftermath is disgustingly drooly. 2009 'Last House''s rape scene is long, grueling and replete with porn-y dialogue and grunts of satisfaction. The effect is that the most recent, more procedural scene drains the blood from the drama and dehumanizes the victim which is, it is true, rape verite'. But on film it only works to distance the viewer if not anesthetize us completely. The effect is pornographic. It's also unsettling that 2009's 'Last House'' is photographed in such elegant, ravishing full color. Too much information.

All that leads up to the rape and stabbing of the girls in Craven's 'Last House' is humiliation and debasement. Phyllis, our defacto heroine, is made to piss herself and then disrobe and make love to her best friend all for the amusement of Krug's gang. Her escape is well-played, arduous and abbreviated by the schizophrenic (and gay) frightwig Sadie (Jeramie Rain). Phyllis just plain breaks our hearts. And then she's stabbed repeatedly with her pants down around her knees. It's a languid, sorry fade that ends with Sadie bathing in Phyllis' viscera. The impact is explosive mostly due to the relative quietude and the moment of regret following the execution style shooting of Mari in a swamp. Again, a very savvy reference to 'Virgin Spring' virgin spring.



2009's 'Last House's glory is the superbly plotted parental revenge. In all 3 versions, the killers unknowingly seek refuge at the dead girl's house, are taken in, fed, treated warmly. The reveal remains the same: a incriminating bloody garment in with their belongings alerts the parents to their guilty guests. The spiritual ramifications are accentuated in Bergman's versions of course as von Sydow flogs himself before killing his lodgers (explicitly). Craven's version includes a castrating blow-job (mom's a trouper), and the most recent version is a delicious cat and mouse which makes the most of the house and its many rooms. Director Dennis Lliadis' mistake is that in his version, although their only child was visciously raped and shot, she's still alive and strong enough to crawl from her bloody, swampy virgin spring to her own front porch. Instead of calling the police or taking her injured daughter to the hospital, mom and dad snap and transform into homicidal maniacs hellbent on revenge -- hang the law or the wellbeing of their daughter. The revenge is so labyrinthian and clever that we're willing to suspend believe...until the microwave appears and then we're played for fools. Um, you have to actually close the microwave door to zap a guy's head, dad. Jeez.

The Last House On The Left (1972): ***
Performance: Where did you go, Phyllis Stone? A nation turns it's lonely eyes to you, Lucy Grantham.

The Last House On The Left (2009): **1/2
Performance: Monica Potter has some fine sustained intensity as Moms.

The Virgin Spring (Jungfrukallan): ****
Performance: Max von Sydow is gigantic and has moral levity up the wazoo.
Oscars?: Nominated for B & W Costume Design, won for Foreign Film

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Fists In The Pocket (I Pugni In Tasca)

Released May 27, 1968
Directed by Marco Bellocchio
Written by Marco Bellocchio

Cast: Lou Castel, Paola Pitagora, Marino Mase' (later played Lupo in 'The Godfather: Part III'), Liliana Gerace

Watching this movie is something akin to being ten years old and bearing witness as a classmate gets his hide tanned for something that wasn't his fault. It's a trauma that sears itself on the cortex of your brain and you're simply stuck with the wound as much as you might refuse to face it. It's claustrophobic and yet thrilling in the way that it captures the sickness afoot amongst this family of defectives, documentary style. The Criterion Collection edition of Bellocchio's first stab at directing should come with a warning: This movie is visceral and twisted and is probably not your thing unless you're some kind of sicko. These people are fucked up. Do not try this at home.

I'm being dramatic, if not operatic, but a gothic opera of sorts is exactly what it is; some critics even classify it as a horror film, although there's nothing overtly gory about it. The family consists of a blind mother who hoards 'Pro Familia' magazine and seemingly lives only to have her children read to her, a son Augusto (Marino Maste') who is about to leave the family business (chinchilla breeding) to marry Lucia (Jeannie McNeill), the middle son, Ale (Lou Castel), who is epileptic, Giulia (Paola Pitagora, very Amy Winehouse), who has issues, and the youngest son, who is a moron. They're all beautiful but quite fucked to various degrees. The eldest has the greatest chance for any kind of normal, happy life and that chance is the impetus for all that follows.

Ale is basically an id. Lou Castel, the greatest actor you've never heard of, gives a volcanic performance as the middle son who suffers such cranial agony that his sister must hold his head to ease the pain. He is all impulse with no pretense. Given to fits of laughter, he entertains fantasies of impaling himself on a knife and for shits and giggles he shoots rats at night with a shotgun. His mission is to set his brother free by destroying the rest of the family. Giulia, his sister, is already set free by Ale's unfettered anarchism and even harbors a touch of brotherlust for the boy. A magnificent, chilling scene depicts Ale punching the air inches from his mother's face while the blind woman sits impassively wondering where the draft is coming from. I have to wonder if Jack Nicholson prepped for 'The Shining' by studying Castel's mad physicality in 'Fists'.

Ale and Giulia are a heartbreaking pair but Ale's also heartlessly murderous. He throws momma from the cliff to the rocks below as gingerly as though he were taking out the trash. And then he sucks the offending finger. The thrill to be found in Castel's performance is the gestural quality he gives Ale as he tries to negotiate his place in the world. Particularly striking is the way he orders his surroundings by raising his hand to his forehead and bisecting his visual plane as if he's taking aim or dilineating perspective. It's a simple movement but it goes a long way in helping us to find a way to stand in his shoes. That's the hitch in Bellocchio's vision of Ale's black heart: We are him because he *makes* us empathize. He takes us there.

Ennio Morricone's score is typically heartwrenching and Northern Italy has never looked so expansively foreboding. For such a hellish, tunnel-visionary work it is astoundingly nice to look at. Bellocchio's rage at the cheat that is the hand some of us are dealt is rare and worth a trip to the dark side of the moon if only for 105 minutes. And Lou Castel, wherever you are - Bravissimo!

Did I Like It: Yes! Now *this* is a horror film, folks. ****

Performance of Note: Lou Castel should have gone on to iconic superstardom a la James Dean. Paola Patagore (a comedienne by trade!) is unforgettable.

Oscars?: Don't be silly. Oscar voters were frigging themselves with Oliver! schwag that year.

Friday, October 16, 2009


Release Date: June 13, 1962
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Written by Vladimir Nabokov, based on his novel 'Lolita'
Stanley Kubrick (uncredited)

Cast: James Mason, Sue Lyon, Peter Sellers, Shelley Winters, Lois Maxwell (later played Miss Moneypenny), Marianne Stone

Nabokov's apparently unfilmable novel of 'Lolita' is blessed with the most exquisite opening paragraph of any classic novel I can recall:

"Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta. She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita. Did she have a precursor? She did, indeed she did. In point of fact, there might have been no Lolita at all had I not loved, one summer, an initial girl-child. In a princedom by the sea. Oh when? About as many years before Lolita was born as my age was that summer. You can always count on a murderer for fancy prose style. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, exhibit number one is what the seraphs, the misinformed, simple, noble-winged seraphs, envied. Look at this tangle of thorns."

Kubrick's film of 'Lolita' fades in on a baroque New Hampshirean mansion haunted by Peter Sellers' severely affected performance as Clare Quilty, a playwright and seducer of Humbert Humbert's beloved little girl-child. I've always found Kubrick's casting of Sellers a fun choice but distracting as all hell. While watching any movie he's in, I'm always struck by Sellers shape-shifting quality or more specifically that queer, rakish grin or those Elvis Costello glasses or his side-splitting Teutonic accent or even how his beefeater pudge fills out a suit. Basically, I don't quite 'get' Clare Quilty or why this boor gets to be inhabited by the great Peter Sellers. The film doesn't go far enough in establishing him as the kind of pedestrian academic that Nabokov so obviously loathes. So all the while he's dodging Humberts' bullets I find myself wishing I was watching "Return of The Pink Panther", while at the same time marveling at the genius casting of James Mason as Humbert.

It seems Quilty only vaguely remembers the fire of Humbert Humbert's loins, this Delores Haze that Mason keeps going on and on about. This galling disregard for the hottest 12 year-old ever really gives HH a red rump so shots are fired and Sellers, crouching behind a bullet-riddled painting of a rosy-cheeked French-looking girl says "gee, that hurt me...". We're not really feeling HH at this point but that's fine because HH is one of cinema's all-time great self-loathers. Still, 152 minutes is a long time to spend with such an insufferable pedophile no matter how much the asshole hates himself.

If ever a movie cried out for 'Sunset Boulevard'-esque narration, "Lolita" is the one. HH's riffs on the revulsion he feels at the lengths to which his sinful lust drives him and the humbling vulgarities he encounters along the way is what gives the novel its richly deserved LOLs. Shelley Winters is the perfect foil for Mason's foppish twatisms. Her Charlotte Haze, Lolita's "cow" of a mother, is Shelley Winters' definitive tragic frump role. Her pretentious motormouth and those watery, hungry eyes brand her as a pathetic slattern from the instant HH lays on her as she shows her rooms to let. This line pretty much sums up her situation as she describes just how stimulating of a lecturer Clare Quilty is:

"He gave us a talk on, hmm, uh, Dr. Schweitzer and Doctor Zhivago."

Mason earns some laughs as he slyly mocks the poor woman's hopeless intellectual shortfall and all the while Humbert and Charlotte endure their cock-up of a marriage, HH makes sense as a character. But once the pervy professor encounters Lo sunbathing, our "hero" all at once drops his snarkey raconteur charm and then transforms into a tiresome lustbot.

"Lolita" is absolutely Shelley Winters' show. Once the marriage is revealed to be the sham that it is and soon thereafter Charlotte gets her comeuppance for being The Anti-Lolita (delirious from grief, she runs out into the rain-swept West Ramsdale street and gets rammed by a car), "Lolita" The Movie becomes a long, dire getaway - stuck in the car with two glowery gits who quite frankly deserve each other. It's no wonder Warren Beatty considered Sue Lyon for the Bonnie Parker role in 'Bonnie and Clyde': She pouts like a champ in the passenger seat. As portrayed by Lyon, Lolita's motives for humoring Humbert 's love jones are perfectly inscrutable but then again they were just as vague on the page so maybe she nailed the part, who can tell. Teenage girls have been buggin' since, like, forever. James Mason wuz robbed - sabotaged by Kubrick's rewrite geared toward the visual, I'm sure. All those withering asides fingering American mediocrity - gone! By the way, all of Kubrick's films have been adaptations (yes, even 'Dr. Strangelove' which was adapted from Peter George's straight-faced cautionary tale, "Red Alert"). I don't have anything to add to that, I'm just sayin' is all.

I love Kubrick's boundless spaces and I love the camera he sets free to explore these boundless spaces but there are times when his anti-hero isn't allowed to go far enough and is left to occupy frames as sort of a vessel. I'm guessing he was a bit of a tyrant and not-so-much a writer's director.

Did I Like This Movie? It was probably the best "Lolita" that could have been made given the year and the moral climate of the times. ***

Memorable Performance: I can't shake Shelley Winter's sad, sad Charlotte Haze.

WTF Moment: Nelson Riddle's stab at the rock n' roll the kids seem to enjoy: "Lolita Ya Ya". Which actually works. I pretty much dig it.

Oscars: A big fat zero. Shelley Winters should have snagged a nomination for Supporting Actress, at the very least. Vladimir Nabokov was nominated for adapting his own novel. I'm sure he had something snotty to say about that, too. Didn't win however.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Seven Brides For Seven Brothers

Directed by Stanley Donen
Written by Albert Hackett, Frances Goodrich, Dorothy Kingsley
Based on the story 'Sobbin' Women' by Stephen Vincent Benet

Cast: Howard Keel, Jane Powell, Jeff Richards, Russ Tamblyn, Julie Newmar

"7 Whores For 7 Rapists!" is what one classy IMDB discussion board contributor calls Seven Brides For Seven Brothers and on paper that would be a fairly accurate summation of this adaptation of Stephen Vincent Benet's short story "Sobbin' Women". For example, all a Pontipee brother has to do is offer a virginal townie babe a "chaw of tobaccy" and the little pissant pig-waller of a mountain settlement just falls apart completely. Fistfights erupt, there's much wringing of hands and sure enough a bland Johnny Mercer tune soon fills the MGM soundstage. Something along the lines of 'moon spoon in June' because 'Seven Brides' is Mercer's most sexless, least memorable work. In fact, the whole piece is no more hot and heavy than your average 'Spin and Marty' episode on The Mickey Mouse Club.

The premise is pretty thin: Seven biblically named Pontipee brothers live in squalor somewhere high up in the mountains of Oregon. They're tall drinks of water, these Pontipees, and they're blessed with feckin' gorgeous heads of Technicolor henna-d hair and lush, bear-ish beards. They're such handsome, well-intentioned boys you can't help but love them of course and they just love to beat the stuffin' out of each other which makes for some well-directed, physical shtick (credit to choreographer Michael Kidd? or ace director of musicals and adult romantic comedies Stanley Donen?). They're lusty, horny, filthy, adorable guys who just need to, um, get their beans snapped so to speak

"Do you like girls?"
"I ain't hardly seen one."

Oof. big brother Adam (basso cantante Howard Keel) takes it upon himself to don his best buckskin fringe and go to town to snag hisself a bride, to hell with the bros. He sings an annoying, misogynist tune, "Bless Your Beautiful Hide" which basically instructs the girls to "it puts the lotion on its skin..." with a twinkle in his eye and thus succeeds in turning off an entire community of uptight, stud-hating white settlers. As he wraps up his song, he spies Milly (supershort Jane Powell) through a window. Milly, a hapless stew-ladler, loves Adam's ass at first sight and they meet cute over freshly-ladled chow. Adam eats her steamy hash and before you know it they're married! Bored already, Adam drives an ecstatic, lovesick Milly back to his butt-hut on high but not before pausing in a meadow so that his shorty can sing some doggerel while he looks on, apparently near death from abject fatigue. Frankly, by this point I'm embarrassed for Milly and I'm thinking maybe it's time to get some shut-eye...But! Then! Milly arrives at Chez Pontipee and the Seven Brides' adorability factor spikes dramatically! Millie, it turns out, is a spitfire and she's going to whip these Pontipee pig-fuckers into shape! She feeds them flapjacks and some shredded green stuff and the brothers tear after the spread like the lithe, sexy professionally-dancing slobs they are. Millie's not having it and whereas today's frontier bride would've adjourned for a cig break, Jane Powell hangs in there and bitches and bitches and bitches.

Next morning: First things first, Milly wants the brothers' union suits. To wash! Howard Keel sits out the next half an hour of the movie so Jane Powell is going to fondle some funked-up grundies. I wish!

That afternoon: Still no Howard Keel so Milly figures she's going to teach these uncouth doorknobs to dance. Good luck with all that, Jane Powell. These guys are as straight as the day is long. Nope, guess not. Brother-on-brother waltzing and reeling and stomping happens. Real men stomp in the yard and are nice to each other it seems. Eh...not really, only on MGM lots. Milly Powell sings "Goin' Courtin'" during all this feminizing which made me turn the volume down so my roommate didn't have to suffer all of "Milly's Trillin'". Yeesh. Later we learn that Adam just wanted a broad to do maid stuff around the house which makes Milly cry.

Finally fit for society, the Pointpee brothers go a-courtin' on Sister Milly's watch. These fellas are gonna raise a barn and snag a Technicolor-co-ordinated babe which reminds me of my own Amish upbringing (before I went rogue). The newly civilized brothers manage to court and spark some city-bred slags while lantern-jawed Brother Benjamin Pontipee gets a go at luscious Julie "Catwoman" Newmar! Dang! Inevitably, little brother Gideon (Russ Tamblyn, Amber's dad) gets the leftover, squeaky little blonde babelet. Boo! I'm sorry but all the brides seem Jew-y and privately schooled so I'm not really buying any of this frontier shit at all. So...a dance-off happens (dark, urban, sinister Jane Austen types vs. Our Boys) and I realize that Michael Kidd's choreography is all about skipping and 'exuberance'. Perfectly suited for can-do America circa The 50's. Russ Tamblyn (Gideon) is made of rubber or something. A barn is raised, sex is implied. The brothers succumb to the allure of brawlin' however because these city fops just could not respect their newly-acquired gentlemanly ways and so Milly cries again and cocks are blocked. This movie should've been called 'Blueballs For Seven Clownshoes'.

Then everybody goes home and mopes. The brothers dance in purifying-white snow with castrating axes and laconic barnyard animals while they sing "I'm A Lonesome Polecat", the one Mercer gem in the whole score. I really like this song and I'm thinking Elvis should've covered it. Or perhaps Fleet Foxes.

Where in hell is Howard Keel?

We know what comes next. Dudes are seriously up in arms over the lack of lovin' and that youngest Pontipee is all caught up over that little Carol Kane Simka Gravas girl. Lantern-jawed Benjamin considers leaving because without any hope of ever hittin' the skins again he's like when doves cry or something. And if Benjamin leaves then Caleb leaves and then Daniel leaves and then Ephraim...well, you get the picture. Howard Keel appears and has had enough of all this brotherly faggotry: "Let's go bag some bitches!" So they do! Jane Austen fops get swatted, babes get bagged and some really bad atmosphere acting goes down. I'm particularly disappointed with a certain blonde-tressed blue-frocked Stella Adler graduate's efforts at portraying anxious dismay as the Pontipee sleigh books through the avalanche-prone mountain pass. Was a song sung? I don't know because I was too caught up in the plot to notice. Props once again to Stanley Donen for keeping things moving along at a brisk pace.

Once again, Jane Powell has had it. Rape/kidnapping is so not cool in her book. Brothers: Sleep in the barn! Adam: Get lost! Victims: Hit the sack (your oppressors' bed)! Howard Keel hotfoots it to his mancave far, far away from this nattering lot of ungrateful, rape-haters. A long, long winter ensues. Not hide nor hair of these sexually frustrated brothers is glimpsed but the Brides are frisky and prancing around in their unmentionables (as they sing "June Bride", snore). Whore Of Babylon Julie Newmar wonders which one of her hunky rapists has slept in the bed she's lounging in. Psst: Lantern-Jaw, dummy!

Meanwhile, Howard Keel has no screen-time but his character, Adam, is probably thinking deep gestative thoughts in his symbolic mancave because Jane Powell is pregnant. Spring comes and Jane/Milly hatches her chile as the six brother-fathers pace anxiously. Boiling water is fetched by the brides which of course signifies labour. Adam saddles up and rides home because baby brother Russ Tamblyn punched him upon delivering the news of the delivery; That's what guys do, I guess. At least they didn't croon about it.

Guess what the whole ensemble sings about in the splashy Technicolor number that quickly follows? Spring! All the brides and brothers are paired off and finally Julie Newmar knows which one of the dancing creeps is her man. She cradles a lamb and oozes sex and sings "Spring, Spring, Spring" with Lantern-Jaw and all the in-laws. Guess she's not too anxious to go back to Squaresville...not with this mountaintop Plato's Retreat keeping it all in the family. The townspeople storm the pass to reclaim their womenfolk but the freaky Pontipee cultists are unconcerned, they're playing a rousing game of "musical chairs". It's 1850 and Janet Reno hasn't been born yet, so the angry mob is doomed to fail. 'Seven Brides'' ur-Waco plays out as 'Goin' Courtin'' reprises it up on the soundtrack. The Brides play the preggers card so the brothers marry their baby mamas at gunpoint. The NRA dabs their eyes and sniffle and squeeze hands in the darkness while the Family Values families give themselves adreneline shots and file out briskly in an orderly fashion for fear of another man-dance and explicit carnal metaphor.

Do I like this movie? Yes, but with serious reservations. ***

Choice performance? Russ Tamblyn, Brooklyn representin' even as a mountain scrub. Also he beat out Morton Downey Jr. for the role.

Influence seen? every challenge-dance ever choreographed by Kenny Ortega.

Oscar nominations: Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Color Cinematography, Musical Score. Won for Musical Score.