“While driving through the desert, a teenage girl is frightened by a seven-foot giant which appears in her path. After escaping, she returns to the site with her boyfriend and her father in an attempt to find the giant. They do, and it proceeds to terrorize them and the rest of Palm Springs, California.” (courtesy IMDB)
Pleasant greetings to you all. The carrion of the Creative Commons I’ve selected to submit for your judgment this week is the 1962 film Eegah (1962). No, I wasn’t clearing my throat, that really is the name of this week’s movie – not a title likely to bring in large audiences, but maybe it wasn’t thought out that carefully. Perhaps, just as he was about to start dictating his script, the writer sneezed, the typist mistook it for the film’s name, and the error wasn’t noticed until after the opening credit sequence was finished and they didn’t have enough money to redo it. It can’t be because they thought is was a good idea, surely?
As I mentioned, I’m submitting Eegah for your judgment, but I already suspect you’ll return a verdict of guilty and demand the cat-o-nine-tails for all! The severity of this crime against humanity is not diminished by the presence of Indulgent Parent Syndrome. Eegah stars Arch Hall Junior and was directed by Arch Hall Senior under a non-de-blame. When he created this vehicle for the talents of his son, he overlooked one vital piece of information: Arch Hall Junior had no talents whatsoever. Nor did Arch Senior learn his lesson from this film – he kept trying to foist Arch Junior onto an unwilling world.
Still, far better directors than Arch Hall Senior have made the same blunder. Yes, Francis Ford Coppola, I’m talking about you. Two flawless films, then you cast Sofia in Godfather Part III (1990)! Didn’t anybody mention that this was a bad idea? Or is it part of your plan to ruin your own films, like with the directors cuts of Apocalypse Now (1979) and One From The Heart (1982). You had final cut on the first release and got it right, you twit! I’ve digressed slightly, and I’d better calm down or they might censor me – let’s start talking about Eegah even though it’s not likely to be a soothing experience.
As I noted earlier, the scoundrel responsible for Eegah is Arch Hall Senior. He started as an actor in Overland Stage Raiders (1938), one of the eighty-or-so B-grade westerns John Wayne made in the thirties, but best remembered for being Louise Brooks’ final film. She decided if she couldn’t get better offers than this, she might as well abandon her acting career, and Arch would have done well to follow her example. Instead, he had minor roles in several B-grade westerns in the forties. Eegah was his only film as director, for which he hid behind the lie Nicholas Merriwether. He also played the part of Robert Miller, under the name William Watters. We understand why he didn’t want to own-up, but we’ve exposed his deception all the same – it was our moral duty. Yes, that’s him wearing that silly safari suit and pith helmet. Even his costume decisions were bad – except for Roxy’s swimsuit, of course.
Our leading lady is Marilyn Manning. Her bikini and that short skirt she so kindly wears are this film’s only redeeming features. The Sadist (1963) is her only other film, which is her career’s only redeeming feature. It won’t take me long to talk about the talents of Arch Hall Junior, I’ll list them alphabetically: Hair. Arch Junior only ever acted in films produced by Arch Senior, and this wasn’t due to family loyalty. Everyone else knew better than to cast him, especially if they had seen Eegah! Not even Beach Party movies would have him. His other films you can count on the fingers of one hand with digits to spare: Wild Guitar (1962), The Sadist, and The Nasty Rabbit (1964).
Doubtless you’ve already recognised Richard Kiel in the title role. He achieved fame as the villainous Jaws in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and Moonraker (1979). The positive impression he made in these films was due to his height, an amazing 219 centimetres – that’s seven feet two inches, or one and a quarter fathoms, or three and a half Danny DeVitos – and because he was working alongside Roger Moore, an actor so truly terrible that his cars had more personality, an idea later exploited by Knight Rider.
Now you know why Richard Kiel was entrusted with so few lines in the James Bond films. Listening to his dialogue delivery as Eegah I was irresistibly reminded of Sylvester Stallone’s big dramatic scene near the end of First Blood (1982) – nearly impossible to understand a word he’s saying. Though, with Mister Stallone that may be a blessing in disguise. The dialogue in some of his films is so abysmal that when you do understand what he’s saying, you wish you didn’t – but I digress again. In the same year as Eegah, Richard Kiel violated good taste again by playing an untrustworthy alien determined to eat ‘long pig’ in the above-average fondly-remembered Twilight Zone episode To Serve Man. A few years later Richard played the title character of The Monkees episode I Was A Teenage Monster, and as the swinging android he has several good lines. When the experiment goes wrong, there are some very funny moments when first he talks like a hippy, then like an effeminate interior decorator – it’s probably the artistic high-point of his acting career. In 1992 an injury in a car crash permanently affected his sense of balance, and since nobody is prepared to stand within 2.2 meters of the unsteady giant, he has all but retired.
Once Eegah is over, I expect you’ll all be reaching for your Thesaurus to find stronger words than ‘awful’ with which to pelt this film – ‘vile’ – ‘contemptible’ – ‘rotten-to-the-core’ – ‘Beyonce’ – all seem very apt to me. And while we’re on the subject of ghastly films, Mister Fishman, the man who tangles with Eegah and is thrown into the pool, is played by Ray Dennis Steckler who, after he saw the final product, declared “I can do better than that!” and went on to prove himself spectacularly wrong. He subsequently directed Wild Guitar (1962), Rat Phink A Boo Boo (1966), Debbie Does Las Vegas (1981), and The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living And Became Mixed-Up Zombies (1964). Mister Fishman’s girlfriend was played by Carolyn Brandt – she was Steckler’s wife and he repeatedly cast her and killed her in his movies. She finally got the message and divorced him in the seventies.
The wife of George The Drunk was played by Addalyn Pollitt – off-screen she was the wife of Arch Senior and the mother of Arch Junior. Casting her in the film was no-where near as offensive as when George decides he’s had enough to drink after he sees Eegah. Variations on that joke turned up in so many films it’s now prohibited by an international treaty. I may have hit the very bottom of the B-grade barrel when I found Eegah. There are worse films in the world, but are they available to be discussed on Horror News? To find out please join me, your host, Nigel Honeybone, next week. Toodles!