It was horrid. It was ghastly. It was gruesome and shocking.
There are some things you don't see or know, because you *shouldn't* see and know them.
It was the "I Love A Mystery" TV pilot/movie.
Think of the worst of the "Monkees" crossed with "Our Man Flint" with a thin glaze of TV's "Batman" television series. Now, pour on top this concoction "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken" and you come within smelling distance of this late 1960's made-for-TV-production.
The retina bleeding colour scheme...the cochlear shredding sound...the mind-numbing plot...over the top and into the wild blue yonder acting...it was not worse than I imagined, it was worse than I possibly *could* imagine.
Carlton E. Morse must be in perpetual motion in his final resting spot at this mockery of his famous radio show creation. Or he must have needed the money very badly. Even the producers of this product knew this was awful, and shelved it for several years (until 1973) before it slithered out of the vaults leaving an equally smelly slime trail.
(sigh) Here's the story, with a plot that is an unholy hybrid of the more familiar ILAM stories "The Thing That Cries in the Night" and "The Fear That Creeps Like a Cat."
Don't say I didn't warn you!
I LOVE A MYSTERY (1967, Universal)
Directed by Leslie Stevens
Starring Les Crane as JACK, David Hartman as DOC, and Hagan Biggs as REGGIE.
Also starring Ida Lupino & Don Knotts
Jack, Doc and Reggie are international detectives (at least, that's what they keep telling everyone they meet, "Hi, we're world famous detectives!) who own their own jumbo jet and flit about solving mysteries. Jack, played by Les Craven, is a Hollywood pretty boy ("...a mystery? I love it!" he chortles, smirking at the others); Reggie is played by some no-name actor who looks like a left-over Beatle, and Doc is a Texan who looks and acts like a human Mortimer Snerd (refer to your "Edgar Bergan & Charlie McCarthy" tapes to see the similarities).
All three wear two-button powder blue polyester suits, each with a crest with the capital letter *A* over the left breast (I suppose that "A" stands for the jet enhanced "A-1" Agency they belong to). All three look like Frat boys dressed by Lawrence Welk. All that was missing was the bubble machine...
After an initial throw-away scene introducing the characters, Jack, Doc and Reggie are seen relaxing on their jumbo jet, a cozy electric fire burning in the hearth. Through the television set on their jet, they are hired by an insurance agency to locate New York financier, Alexander Archer, worth a cool billion. As they learn from the toothy Brit on the screen, the insurance agency is out a cool million dollars if Archer is actually dead. Both Archer's partner, Randolf Cheney, and the insurance company think Archer is alive, and want the three to prove it. Head over to a hotel located in the Pacific North West, they are told, and more information will follow.
So far, so good. Wincingly bad acting, horrible costumes, anachronistic updating of the A-1 Detective agency. Things quickly go down from here, alas.
Bellhops pull guns. Bellhops are thwarted. A pippin of a girl wearing a telegram uniform delivers a telegram (but doesn't sing it, alas). Our trio run towards the waterfront, promptly jump on the wrong boat, and are carried out to see. Sailors thwart the boys with nets. The boys thwart the sailors. A big boat thwarts their little boat. Another little boat rescues our trio, the boat they were supposed to catch; a soft looking tippler named Job Cheney along with the boat's chauffeur, Andreas, rescues the boys. Only the rescuers from the little boat thwart the boys anyway just for the heck of it (needless to say, much thwarting occurs in this movie).
Jack, Doc and Reggie, their hair as gleaming as their polyester suits, arrive finally at their destination, a mysterious uncharted island where the Phantom Castle is located. They turn the tables on their captor, Job, and grab his rifle. Then all three march inside the main hall of the Castle (where the contents of a small zoo is stuffed and mounted and draped about as furniture), and they meet the master of the castle, Randolf Cheney. Who turns out to be a lady! "Just call me Randy," she breathes to our campy heroes.
Randalf Cheney (played by Ida Lupino, in a moment of suspended sanity else unvarnished greed) turns out to be Job's bitchy mother. Think of Joan Crawford from "Mommy Dearest", and swap the coat-hangers with an overly long riding crop, and you got things pretty close. After Job gets slapped by Mommy for allowing himself to be caught, our trio in polyester learn from Randolf some unpleasant facts. To their dismay, they are told that there never was any Alexander Archer, and that the whole point of the adventurous exercises the three have undergone are but the preliminary rounds of some unnamed scientific experiment that she is conducting. Jack questions the logic of all this, pointing out that a engraved pen he picked up has the initials *A.A* on them; fictional men don't engrave their initials on pens.
Randy bids the three to go to their rooms, each decorated as overstuffed taxidermy museums. Doc finds as secret passage in his room, Jack finds a near naked girl in his bed, and Reggie finds just an empty room (hmm...some things don't change from the radio serial, do they, folks!).
Jack discovers his girl is named Faith or Fay Cheney, Randy Cheney's daughter ("Who are you?" she asks. "Why, I'm a world famous detective!" Jack replies with a smirk). Jack learns that Faith has two other sisters, Randy's daughters; Charity (shortened Cherry), and Hope (if her name is shortened, we never hear it mentioned out loud). We have now entered a perverted version of the ILAM story, "The Thing that Cries in the Night."
Doc finds one exit to his secret passage is the back of the shower in Cherry's room, the latter whom immediately begins emitting painfully loud shrieks. Doc beats a hasty retreat, after taking one long glance and a long cold shower.
Meanwhile, Reggie realizes he isn't seeing any half-clothed females, and rushes over to Jack's room where he finds Jack in the company of Fay. Suddenly a baby starts crying, there is a thump outside like a body falling down stairs. They rush outside, and run into Doc at the head of the stairs. Formal introductions are exchanged for several minutes, before rushing downstairs where the unconscious body of Cherry is lying at the base of the stairs, clad only in a damp yellow towel.
Jack does some peculiar first-aid/frottage on Cherry while Doc dries his face and hair on her awfully short towel. The girl revives simultaneously with the arrival of Randy Cheney, who bids the three to come to her laboratory. Reluctantly, the three watch the two girls oscillate upstairs in their unmentionables, before going to the laboratory.
By the way, the rest of the movie makes even *less* sense.
In the lab, the boys first agree to take apart Randy to learn the whereabouts of Archer, then suddenly agree to be guinea pigs in some experiments of hers. They change their mind when she reverses her original statement that there is *no* Alexander Archer, to the line that she has Archer captive but in a cell monitored by a time-clock; if she is not free to punch the clock on a regular basis, Archer dies. Thwarted!
So, they undergo some simple medical tests involving heart rate, blood pressures, and psychological testing. I found the scene where Doc is asked what the Rorschach images remind him of hysterical ( "Why, they just look like ink spots!"). The experiments over, with the boys resting in the lab, suddenly voices are heard outside the window. They look, and see Hope with the boat's chauffeur, Andreas. Hope takes her dress off revealing clothes most...uh...revealing. The chauffeur is shot. The girl faints. The boys argue as to who gets to carry her up to her room. The chauffeur's body goes missing. And Mrs. Randolf Cheney sneers and domineers.
The boys decide to do some exploring of Doc's secret passage. Beyond finding many cobwebs that still don't cling to their polyester suits, Reggie finds a note in his pocket claiming to be from Alexander Archer. They also find wires leading to a time-clock in Randy's office, a time clock which Randy claims controls the life or death of Alexander Archer if it is not punched on a regular basis! Randy finds them! The boys crow their find! Randy mentions that there are *many* time clocks on her desk; which one controls life, and which will cause death? The boys sure don't know, and give up, thwarted once again!
Dinner is called. Job is shot! The murder weapon is found in the flower-box. Jack reconstructs the solution to the killing by finding the black thread. He re-enacts the crime. Doc ducks, and narrowly misses the bullet. Hope rushes in, her bosom heaving. Cherry is missing!
The boys find her clothing, scattered down the front stairs; shoes, stockings, dress, slip, and a size 36 C-cup; down to the furnace room they race for more hot stuff! The furnace is on full blast, flames all a-rage! Cherry is found wearing a burlap sack, tied up and gagged. They return her to her room, the walls measled with Mother Goose characters, and question her closely.
No face, no legs and a red smock is what her captor wore, they learn (an easy man to spot in a police line-up!). The chauffeur's body is found in her toy box. The boys leave the two together, and head back to their rooms with pencils, graph paper and much skull sweat, eager to have a planning session and crack this case!
During the planning session, Doc's bed (complete with fake grey fur) swallows him up unbeknownst to the others. The bed is seen trundling along tracks down to a secret lair that closely resembles a Roman amphitheater. The bed hoists itself upright, and Randy shoves smelling salts under Doc's nose. He wakes up, and realizes his dire predicament, for three cages attached to the amphitheater houses giant lions and lionesses (both complete with fake grey fur)!
Randy hints that the *experiment* is about to begin, and experiment where Doc must face the three wild animals in hand to hand battle wearing only a loin cloth. When Doc mentions he is still wearing his impeccable polyester suit (with the A-crest on the left breast), Randy has robot arms attached to the very versatile bed undress Doc, who is reduced to giggles and his boxers.
Meanwhile, Jack and Reggie have noticed Doc is missing! They round up the three girls in their baby-dolls, and go prancing about the secret passages and labyrinths of the Phantom Castle, in search of Doc. Needless to say, the three girls giggle and lead the way. They also mention that Alexander Archer is their father, which means he is the husband of Randolf Cheney!
Meanwhile, Doc realizes that giggles and boxers are a poor combination, and promptly loses one of them. Randy starts doing a diabolical countdown, after first pointing out that she has also prepared an eyewitness to events, a mysterious figure garbed all in black. Jack and Reggie burst in on the scene. The girls start fighting amongst themselves. Much screaming, hair pulling and tickling begins. Chaos reigns.
For starters, a cage drops in Reggie and Jack. The big cats are released. The baby starts to cry. Doc starts to sweat. Randy takes notes. The girls continue their own cat fight. Reggie short-circuits their cage door with some power leads while Randy cries foul play. The black figure watches. The lions start to pace. Reggie releases Doc, and both scamper on top of his bed. Randy rages. Jack short circuits the lions. Randy cries, "You are ruining my experiment!" The girls fall out of the amphitheater bleachers into the arena. Sudden silence descends. The lions are dead. The battle is over.
Randy is captured. The girls reveal that Cherry Martin is dead (she was killed when the others fell on top of her). Job is revealed as the chauffeur's killer, and Cherry, why she killed Job! Why? Because Randy was a bad mother, and a bad wife. Jack babbles psychobabble. The figure in black is unmasked; why it's Don Knotts! Er...it's Alexander Archer! "You're a bad mother...and a bad wife!" he shouts out, bug eyed!
The Case of The Fear that Creeps and Cries in the Night Like a Smelly Cat is over (I won't dignify it with the word "solved").
The boys depart for their Jumbo Jet. Reggie plays "Valse Trieste" on the Jumbo Jet's Hammond organ. Doc listens to country and western music with headphones, and Jack, why he is hearing about their next case!
Only now, as their television link tells them, this is THE END.
And none too soon for my sanity! Thank goodness, there wasn't a sequel!
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