Hi, it’s Pam again. Today Nate and I are going to review a true classic, a movie that turns up on all the lists of Worst Movies Ever: Eegah, also known more dramatically as Eegah: The Name Written In Blood. It was made in 1962, and was intended to appeal to the mostly teenage audience who patronized drive-ins. Well, I don’t know about you guys, but to me that title just cries out, “Million Monkey Theater! Review Me!” So Nate and I listened, and this is what we think of it.
Before I start, I should say that not only have I never seen this movie, I don’t even know what it’s about. The title isn’t giving away anything, so I’m curious. The opening credits make it clear that this movie is set in the early 1960s, since the musical accompaniment is the twangy bluesy sort that was popular in coffeehouses of the time. This is confirmed by the clothes and the cars, plus the fact that the gas stations have people who come out and fill your car with gas! How long has it been since you’ve seen that?
That Sky Chief pump is worth some money today.
Right away we’re introduced to the hero and heroine: Roxy, a young brunette woman who favors poofy sundresses, and Tom, a young blond gas station attendant. Roxy is played by Marilyn Manning, an actress who has a full three movies to her credit and is too obscure to rate a biography on IMDb. Tom is played by Arch Hall, Jr., the son of Arch Hall, Sr., the man who directed, wrote, and acted in this movie and who plays Roxy’s father, Mr. Miller. Both Marilyn Manning and Arch Hall Jr. are really bad actors. It appears from Wikipedia that Arch Hall Sr. tried to make his son into an actor/singer in the style of Elvis Presley. He failed, though, and his son would make his last (of six) movies in 1965 and go on to a respectable career as an airline pilot.
Tom (or Johnny B. Goode…).
Roxy is headed off to the country club for a little get-together which involves a bikini small enough to fit into a business-sized envelope (very radical for 1962), when she stops to get gas at a service station manned by Tom. And here I just have to comment on their amazing hairstyles. Well, maybe Roxy’s isn’t so bad for 1962. It does involve a bouffant top with a long curl dangling down, but for 1962 it was reasonable, although most women didn’t wear such an elaborate hairstyle for everyday life. Roxy wears her hair like this for everything from dinner at a country club to a drive in the desert to swimming (!)
Like a really well-made scarf.
Tom’s hairdo, however, is something else. Possibly his father insisted that it be styled this way for the part, reasoning that if his son couldn’t sing and play the guitar as well as Elvis Presley, at least he could go Elvis one better with his hair. You may have noticed that in movies of the time, men often look as though they greased their hair into place with Vaseline, but Tom must have used pure glue to sweep up the long sides and hold his massive pompadour in place. It’s amazing hair. I understand Elvis’ hairstyle was considered somewhat shocking at the time, since men had been wearing their hair cut very short and plainly styled for many years, but Tom outdoes Elvis with hair if not talent. Also, I think Tom’s hair was bleached to achieve that light-on-top dark-underneath look it has. And while we’re on the subject of hair, the B-movieness is further indicated by the fact that the actors’ hair often looks a little ratty. Roxy’s curl varies in length and tightness of curl from shot to shot, Tom’s pompadour similarly varies in floppiness, and Mr. Miller removes a pith helmet to reveal something you almost never see in a movie – matted-down hat hair.
Lots of gel in that.
Ragging on hair will resume shortly, but to get back to the movie for a little while, Roxy leaves the gas station after Tom promises to follow her to the club as soon as he can. It’s not soon enough for Roxy, though, because her drive is interrupted by a large figure in the road. A very large figure. Poor Roxy faints (very unconvincingly, maybe she was afraid she’d mess up her hair) while the Giant grunts, looks closely at Roxy’s sharp little convertible, and waves his club around aimlessly. Unfortunately for the movie, the giant just isn’t that scary. The Giant is about seven feet tall, which is impressive but not really big enough to be terrifying. He wears a brief one-shoulder fur tunic, much like the style popularized by The Flintstones, which was airing in prime time in 1962. Plus –and to get back to ragging on the actors’ hair- he has a mass of shaggy hair and a long, very fake-looking beard. A startling sight to see on a lonely road, but not as scary as the movie would like it to be. However, Roxy disagrees, and revives briefly only to faint again, even less convincingly. Roxy revives yet again as the Giant is getting ready to pound her car with his club, and this time I don’t blame her for being scared, but before she can faint again, Tom pulls up behind her and the Giant runs away.
Where’s all that light coming from?
Roxy sobs and clings to Tom, but despite her obvious distress, he doesn’t believe she saw a giant caveman. When she gets to the club and tells her story to her father, he isn’t sure, but he doesn’t believe his daughter would lie. He’s willing to check out the place Roxy claims she saw the Giant. Roxy appears to have gotten over her fright, and she confides to Tom that she thought the Giant was kind of cute, which he actually is if you can ignore the beard and hair, although how Roxy could see enough of him in the pitch-black desert to know this, I don’t know.
He’s not being supportive at all.
Morning dawns, and Mr. Miller, Roxy, and Tom return to the scene of last night’s incident. Tom comes across a giant footprint, which is enough to convince Mr. Miller that his daughter really did see a giant and to inspire Roxy to give Tom a kiss. I guess she really liked the Giant’s looks, because she seems eager to meet him again. Mr. Miller is some kind of writer, and he decides to charter a helicopter to try to locate the Giant, apparently hoping to write a book about him. By the way, so far Arch Hall Sr. the only actor in the movie who can deliver his dialogue decently, although of course the Giant is handicapped by the fact that so far he’s only been allowed to grunt.
Checking out the evidence.
I was assuming that Mr. Miller wanted the helicopter to fly him over the desert so he could look for signs of the Giant, and maybe use the helicopter’s noise to flush him out. I was wrong, though, it seems he used the helicopter only to take him into the desert, then come back later to pick him up, while he does the search on foot. This seems very inefficient and possibly dangerous, especially since he brought a small overnight bag but no canteen. He’s lucky enough to spot the Giant’s fire almost immediately (in the middle of the desert, far from any shelter), but unluckily the Giant also spots him and moves in with his club. Mr. Miller falls down, and we’ll have to wait to find out what happens to him, because it’s time for Tom to sing.
Tom and Roxy are back at the club, and Tom has decided to strum an electric (!) guitar and give us a little song. It looks as though he brought some amps along, as well as invisible backup singers, for his impromptu concert. His voice isn’t bad, but the song is a completely forgettable ballad of a teenage boy who’s had a fight with his girl. Elvis Presley had nothing to worry about. Tom tries for a Buddy Holly hiccup a couple of times, but Buddy Holly had nothing to worry about, either (and yes, I know he was dead by 1962). We’re further entertained by the sight of Roxy in a skimpy-for-1962 bikini swimming in the pool, trying not to get her hairdo wet. She pretty much succeeds, but in a couple of shots you can see her long curl is trailing in the water, oh, no! But don’t worry, it dries the moment she gets out of the pool.
Chicks dig the guitar, man.
She needs a sandwich.
Tom’s song ends with bad news. The helicopter pilot calls Roxy to let him know the helicopter’s broken down and he won’t be able to pick up Mr. Miller after all. Fortunately aid is at hand, for Tom has a dune buggy! With water in the tires for traction! (Does anybody know if this was really done, in the 1960s or any other time?) Of course Tom has a dune buggy, any self-respecting hero of a 1960s teen movie filmed near the seashore or a desert has a dune buggy. He and Roxy have a good old time speeding around the desert, in imminent danger of turning over or just being thrown out, because of course in the 1960s nobody wore seat belts and dune buggies didn’t have doors or roll bars. They appear to be out there more for fun than for finding Mr. Miller, but they eventually make it to the meeting place, only to find no sign of Mr. Miller.
Love the white walls.
They intend to hang around until he shows up, but fortunately they came prepared. Roxy brought the ingredients for a stew, and Tom brought a bedroll and a gun, although Roxy makes him put away the gun, saying reasonably that there’s too much chance he’ll shoot Mr. Miller in the dark. Tom gallantly insists that Roxy take the bedroll while he beds down on a car seat. They leave the fire burning, hoping that Mr. Miller will spot it. Oh, and Tom brought a guitar along, too, although this time it’s acoustic. He also brought along his invisible backup singers, although they don’t help the song, which is another forgettable teen ballad.
Of course you remember that Mr. Miller isn’t the only, um, being roaming the desert. The Giant shows up and samples the stew, making uncouth grunting and slurping noises. Tom and Roxy are dead to the world, but just then Tom’s transistor radio comes on (he mentioned there’s something wrong with the “on” switch), and the Giant drops his club and runs away before they’re awake enough to see him. Tom and Roxy notice some of the stew is gone, and they both spot the large club. We don’t know if they fell back asleep or spent the rest of the night watching for the Giant, because the next we see of them, it’s daylight and they’re driving through the desert. They just happen to spot Mr. Miller’s camera, lying where he dropped it when the Giant knocked him down. Roxy fears the worst, but Tom persuades her to check out a nearby ravine. (I fear the worst myself, because this is the third day Mr. Miller has been out in the desert with no water.) Tom has a certain amount of trouble getting her to stay in the dune buggy while he walks through the ravine, and for once I think the whiny Roxy’s right. They know there’s a giant roaming around the area, and they know he might not be friendly, so it seems like a bad idea to split up. However, Tom takes the gun, so I guess his reasoning is that if the Giant comes after him, he can shoot it, and if the Giant comes after Roxy, she can drive away.
They bicker constantly, it hurts.
But Tom is assuming that Roxy is paying attention to her surroundings, which turns out to be incorrect. While she’s sitting and looking through the windshield, a very large hand reaches out and touches her shoulder. Instead of doing something useful, like starting the engine or at least honking the horn to alert Tom, she shrieks and faints (as unconvincingly as before). We see her sliding out of the seat, brushing against the horn just enough to honk it. Tom looks around and runs back to the dune buggy, but he’s too late. There’s no sign of Roxy. I’m sure I won’t be spoiling the surprise for you by telling you that the Giant carried her off, still unconscious, and unless the Giant is in the habit of carrying a purse with him, he was considerate enough (or greedy enough?) to take Roxy’s purse, too.
He must have ninja feet.
Before I turn the review over to Nate, there’s a couple of things I want to point out. The sound quality of this movie, like the acting, varies from bad to terrible. Listen closely, and you can tell a lot of the dialogue was poorly dubbed in, often by somebody other than the actor who was supposed to be speaking. Sometimes it appears to have been dubbed in at random. In one famous moment, mentioned in every review of this movie, we hear a disembodied voice call, “Watch out for snakes!” as Mr. Miller heads off into the desert. And if Marilyn Manning was a teenager when she made this movie, I’m Cleopatra. As I mentioned, she doesn’t have a biography on IMDB, but in her closeups, she looks at least 30, maybe more. And finally, Tom bears a certain resemblance to King Joffrey. He can’t compete with Elvis on looks, either.
Now I’m going to let Nate have a go at this movie. It isn’t fair for me to have all the fun.
Thanks, Pam, I’ll follow along behind the giant as he carries the scrawny chick over the broken desert to his cave, because that’s just what prehistoric holdout hominids do, it’s his idiom. And in that cave is none other than Roxy’s missing dad Mr. Miller, a bit dinged up, his combover a bit out of sorts, but certainly fine enough to provide us with about fifteen straight minutes of exposition on the giant’s condition and behavior. Did they set it up earlier that the old man was an expert in Paleolithic anthropology? No, not at all. Did they mention anywhere in the dialogue before that he knew anything at all about early post-glacial Homo Sapien Sapians and their social structure, funeral customs, grooming habits, dietary requirements, artistic paintings, or anything at all? Nope, all the guy’s knowledge just comes out of the blue, probably because it was on his script pages for the day.
Not much curb appeal to his cave.
The giant, whose name, unsurprisingly, turns out to be “Eegah” because that’s what he grunts at himself, is hundreds of years old, lives in a cave up in the mountains, has all this dead ancestors lined up like mummies along the wall, eats raw meat off the bone, and communicates only in guttural throaty grunts. Clearly he’s the last of the Ice Age inhabitants of this part of the continent, living out his solitary life in his cave in a Hanna-Barbara type existence of fur togas, wild hair, and oaken cudgels. Using skills passed down for thousands of generations of his people, he has been able to survive, dare I say prosper, alone in the wilderness, completely cut off from the modern age in every way.
This, of course, is bullshit. The fact of the matter is that “Eegah” is really 23-year old aspiring actor Richard Kiel from Los Angeles. Having recently lost out on a part he auditioned for, and with his alcoholism spiraling out of control, he lost his mind and went off the reservation, so to speak. Abandoning his apartment and his beat-up ’55 Dodge in LA, Kiel hitchhiked east into the Mojave, eventually ending up in the rocky hills outside Palm Springs a few weeks ago where he decided to withdraw from civilization and live the life of the hermit. My proof…
1) He looks exactly like Richard Kiel. Like, totally just like him.
2) He’s a pale white guy living in desert environment, not a bit of suntan at all. He’s clearly only been here for a week, tops. Plus his nails are perfect and his beard neckline has been recently trimmed, and his teeth are way too white and straight to be believable.
3) His cave is not three miles from the thriving and vibrant town of Palm Springs, there’s no way that a holdout prehistoric man could ever remain undiscovered living that close to a major population center. Nor could he be in anyway isolated from people enough to not recognize what a car is (the highway where he first met Roxy is within visual sight of his cave) or not see the bright lights of the town at night and wonder what’s up.
4) Spoilers, but later we see that he knows his way around a modern 1960s city just fine, able to navigate streets and sidewalks and houses without any trouble. Sure he has trouble with door handles for some reason, but that’s more because he’s got anger management issues.
5) And lastly, the skulls of his “ancestors” in the cave don’t in any way look like him, completely lacking the recognized traits of pronounced brow ridges and aveolar prognathism characteristic of early hominids in North America. What they do look like are the skulls of itinerate Mexican tomato farmers, of which the area around Palm Springs is rife with. Am I suggesting that Richard Kiel has been kidnapping and murdering people since he got here? Yes, yes I am.
He shows her his serial killer score.
Anyway, Roxy is a total emotional train wreck and being put under such stressful conditions has done nothing to help that. First, her relationship with her father is more than a bit icky. What teenage girl gives their father a hot shave? That’s more than a bit weird. Secondly, she’s less scared of Richard Keil th…ok, fine, “Eegah“, whatever. She’s less scared of Eegah than she is intrigued by this tall mysterious stranger, unlike anyone she‘s ever met, the ultimate bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks. It’s not Stockholm Syndrome, but more just a case of young, impressionable, desperate-for-attention Roxy slowly, inexorably falling for Eegah and his rough, grabby, ways. Whereas flimsy Tom is all eyebrow bleach and silk boxer shorts, Eegah is masculine and virile and musky, while at the same time kind and generous, and those differences are what keeps her tears and screams away. Eegah’s also strangely attentive and deeply interested in Roxy, he shows her around his cave, offers her food and drink, even points out his cool drawings, including one of her (awww!). He even politely introduces her to Juan, Carlos, and Guillermo, his special friends who happen to be desiccated corpses that he recently ate the flesh off of. It’s clear that Roxy is awakening something in him that has been dormant for a while (like, a week or two), the feelings and emotions that only a beautiful young girl in a vulnerable position can evoke in a man.
And her dad just sits back and lets it happen.
She shaves his homeless guy beard off in a gesture of kindness and is pleasantly surprised to find a uniquely handsome face underneath all the hair and lice. Suddenly aware of his own appearance and how she sees him now, Eegah stares intently at Roxy with obvious sexual curiosity, touching her skin, feeling her face and hair with his strong hands, making Roxy feel suddenly powerfully attractive and wanted in a way that milquetoast Tom could never do for her. Even when Eegah gets a bit too handsy, tearing her clothes a bit to expose her heaving bosom, Roxy surprises herself by enjoying it more than she knows she should. That sort of raw sexual energy was not something she had ever experienced before, certainly not from fey Tom or from any of the other boys who came to court from her rich father’s country club set. It’s the special burden of youth that makes teenage girls swoon over the dangerous ones, despite all reason and logic, and Roxy finds herself unable to put up more than a token resistance to Eagah’s eager, imploring hands.
This will not end well.
So much going on here.
She would probably let Eegah mount her right then and there, if it weren’t for that damned Tom’s sudden and intrusive arrival. Punches are thrown, rocks are tossed, and Tom temporarily incapacitates Eegah long enough to get Roxy and her dad to safety. Even then, you can tell by the way Roxy stares back at Eegah as they drive away in the buggy that she has passionate feelings for the brute that she herself cannot fully understand. That brief encounter with a massively strong and handsome man who so obviously thought her the most beautiful and alluring woman he had ever seen has shaken her to her core and she will never be the same.
Nor will he.
Even when they are back in Palm Springs, back to their normal Archie comics teenage life of fancy dress sock hops and chaperoned dates to the movies, Roxy can’t stop thinking of Eegah. She admits it to her father, in fact, telling him that she is deeply concerned for the giant, worried for him, longing to know if he‘s alright and safe. Suddenly her boyfriend Tom is just a skinny douchebag who obsesses about his own hair more than he does about her, nothing like that giant, feral man who made her feel sexy and important. She finds herself distracted all the time, agitated, unable to focus on her daily life in a way that both enthralls and terrifies her.
Roxy comes clean.
So the last third of the movie is upon us now and the stage is set for conflict and drama. In town, Roxy and Tom go to yet another, suddenly juvenile, pool party where she paces anxiously, unsure of her feelings and her emotions, confused by how she can’t stop replaying her time in the cave with Eegah in her mind, imagining his hands on her body, his eyes locked to hers. For his part, Eegah is also torn between continuing his solitary life of jackrabbit clubbing and migrant worker murdering, or risking it all to travel across the scrubland to Palm Springs to try and find that beautiful girl who has so scrambled his brain and his heart. Pam, which path will Richard Keil…seriously, that’s Richard Kiel with a sociopathic disorder, you all see that don’t you? What path with Richard choose, Pam? The path of loneliness or the path of love?
At least he still has his Beiber Sweep.
Good question, Nate. It looks very much as though it’ll be the path of love. After a rather disturbing little scene where he sniffs a flimsy garment Roxy left behind (and holds it to the mummies’ desiccated faces so they can do likewise), he’s off to Civilization, which is only minutes away, as it happens. But how is he to find Roxy in this unfamiliar world? Ah, that’s why he’s carrying around the afore-mentioned flimsy garment, he’s tracking her by smell! Meanwhile, Roxy, Mr. Miller, and Tom are getting ready to head out to a bash at the country club. Mr. Miller’s arm was injured during his stay with Eegah and Roxy has to tie his tie for him, which leads to another bit of ickiness, since she’s more than a little flirtatious while she does it. Rumor has it that Arch Hall Sr. and Marilyn Manning were an item when this movie was filmed. It certainly looks like it here, and it would explain how such a rotten actress got the lead role.
The three of them leave, but Eegah’s right behind them. He breaks into a sedate dinner party and helps himself to a whole roast, and is greeted by shrieks and screams from the diners. Incidentally, the screams in no way match the action of the diners, who stand up and display only casual interest in the fur-clad giant who has suddenly appeared in their midst. I suspect that like so much of the rest of the dialogue, the screams were dubbed in later. But fake or not, the screams don’t stop Eegah on his quest for True Love. Eegah is behaving surprisingly well for a prehistoric giant completely unfamiliar with modern civilization (or an alcoholic failed actor who had a nervous breakdown, if you’d rather). A couple of pests get thrown into the swimming pool, but Eegah’s club doesn’t come into play. He’s steadily tracking Roxy and making his way toward something that really ought to be clubbed, namely Tom, who is singing yet again. This song’s a little livelier than the others, but still completely forgettable. I note with interest that although Tom is having a go at a mild version of Elvis Presley-style hip gyrations, his hair remains staunchly in place. But the music fails to cheer up poor Roxy, who is still pining for her bad boy, even though, as she points out to Mr. Miller, he tried to kill them. Little does she know…
He's not so good with doors.
Eegah is in fact getting closer, but so are the police, who were summoned by the diners. For a moment it looks as though there’s going to be a standoff outside a motel, but Eegah gets away and finally tracks down Roxy, who is back near the pool, dancing with Tom and another guy. Although we haven’t seen or heard of the other guy before, it seems there’s some bad blood between him and Tom, and they’re shoving each other around when who should come strolling in but Eegah. Tom might have been having a few drinks in between sets, because he tries attacking Eegah. He is, of course, contemptuously shoved aside, and Eegah calmly picks up Roxy and strides off with her (she makes a few token protests but doesn’t sound sincere, although of course it could just be more bad acting). Alas for true love, just then the police arrive. The background music suddenly gets urgent and dramatic, so we know This Is It. Sure enough, with barely a quick “Halt!” the police start shooting, and keep in mind there’s a crowd of people just a few feet behind Eegah (!). Poor lovelorn Eegah goes where other characters in this movie have gone before, namely into the swimming pool. The police apparently lose all interest in the floating corpse, at least there’s no sign of them among the partygoers who stand around the pool and look sadly at the floating club and the flimsy garment as Mr. Miller solemnly quotes from the book of Genesis. I still can’t tell what the flimsy garment is, I think it may be just a random scrap of fabric somebody picked up. And that is the end.
Eegah is no more.
And Roxy is not happy about it.
Well. There’s not a lot to say about this movie. If it had been better made, it could have aspired to be another moderately interesting but quickly forgotten B movie, like The Alligator People or Beginning of the End. But the subpar acting and the weirdness that cropped up here and there put the movie out of that category. Maybe that’s a good thing, now that I think about it, because even though I didn’t particularly like this movie, I’m not going to forget it in a hurry. I can see why Arch Hall Sr. didn’t make it big as a moviemaker, and why his son never got anywhere as an actor, but it’s at least a minor accomplishment to make a movie that’s still being talked about fifty years after it was made. Admittedly, it’s not an accomplishment I’d aim for myself, but most makers of B-movies have to take what they can get.
Any final remarks, Nate?
Well, Pam, I think the most noteworthy aspect of this movie is the continuously repeated (even by us) mantra that this movie was built from the ground up by Arch Sr. to be a star-maker for his dorky son Arch Jr. All well and good, but if you watch this movie with that mind it’s hard not to notice that the kid doesn’t do so well. He’s a dick to Roxy, his singing/strumming are average at best, his “fight scenes” are lame, he offers zero relevant exposition, and he virtually disappears for the middle third of the movie. This is really Roxy’s story and all the menfolk are just there to help her discover her hopes and dreams and fears over a few days in sunny Palm Springs. In fact, of the four main characters (Roxy, Eegah, Mr. Creepy, and Tom, it’s skinny hipster Tom who is easily the most superfluous to the plot, not really a star-making turn by the lad. Still a worthy subject for MMT’s critical gaze, and not at all as bad a movie as is commonly believed.
Don't quit your day job, kid.
Written in March 2014 by Nathan Decker and Pam Burda.
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