Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Taking the bus to the centre of Washington DC: $5.50

Buying a hoodie at Walmart: $19.99

Printing up a sign at that office supply place: $7.95

Not bothering to check if you got the victim’s name right: priceless

Friday, March 23, 2012


And so AndressFest ended for another year, with half a dozen people tired, drunk and traumatised by bad cinema. It was also a moment of realisation for me, when I checked imdb.com and discovered that of the twenty seven films Ursula made between her breakout role as Honey Rider ('Dr No', 1962) and her last mainstream role as Aphrodite ('Clash of the Titans', 1981), there are only seven that I haven't seen. I am well on my way to being the first person in the history of cinema to watch every Ursula Andress film in existence and live to tell the tale.

Sweet merciful crap!

To steady my nerves, I may need to down a few more glasses of the cocktail I created especially for AndressFest'12. In addition to the Golden Ursula, the Creamy Ursula, the Dirty Ursula, the Cheeky Ursula and the Spicy Ursula, we now have an unexpected little cocktail I like to call...

The Sultry Ursula

Dunk an orange pekoe teabag and a couple of sprigs of rosemary into 250mls of vodka for ninety minutes. Then discard the teabag and rosemary and seal the container of vodka.

Into an ice-filled shaker add 6 parts tea-infused vodka to 1 part Cointreau, then swirl rather than shake for a good sixty seconds.

Strain into a martini glass and garnish with a fresh sprig of rosemary.

The combination of vodka, Cointreau, rosemary and tea is exotic and strangely compelling... much like the woman herself.

As for the rest of the refreshments, they followed the usual subtle theme:

I am a creature of habit.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


The year was 1979. In Iran, students invaded the American embassy and took hostages in an action that was to eventually bring about the political downfall of President Jimmy Carter. Elsewhere in the Middle East, Russian troops invaded Afghanistan in a move that was to become one of the greatest military blunders of the 20th century. In Ireland, Lord Mountbatten was murdered by the IRA, along with five other dignitaries including the Baroness Brabourne.

It was clearly a disastrous year. Then to add insult to injury, along came 'Tigers In Lipstick', our third and final film of AndressFest'12.

It's about as subtle as a Benny Hill chase scene. The movie is a series of eight vignettes featuring four famously hot 1970s actresses, each playing two roles. For example Sylvia Kristel, the most celebrated soft core actress of her day, plays a woman who tricks a man into taking the fall for not one but two of her murders, and then, later in the movie, she plays the bored wife of a jealous husband. Similarly Ursula Andress plays the chilly widow of a politician who thaws quickly during a candid photo session, then a woman who causes motor accidents outside the premises of car mechanics in return for a cut of their profits. Her method of causing motor accidents was one of the few unpredictable moments of the entire movie.

But such moments of fun were rare. Based on this film, it's clear that there was something desperately wrong with Italian masculinity in the 1970s. The movie was all about strong, beautiful women using their feminine powers to subjugate frustrated, buffoonish Italian men. It's hard to see who comes out worse. If the acting had been good it might have worked; the actresses were charming, but the male actors lunged at their dialogue like a dog going for a dropped sausage. Based on what appeared on screen, there were only four stage directions for the men in the movie: "ogle", "shout", "wave your arms about like a muppet on crack" and "drive your Fiat into a lamp post"... although that last one would've probably happened even without stage directions.

It's worth noting that if you have a bunch of inebriated straight guys sitting around watching hot women taking their clothes off, and the guys are still moaning, "Gah! How much longer do we have to sit through this? Hurry up and end already!", then you've probably done something wrong. In the apt words of Tom Servo, "this is what happens when sexy becomes annoying!"

About the only non-annoying image we can take from 'Tigers In Lipstick' was this:

Which is worth something, I admit. But when the high point of your movie is a brief performance by Ursula Andress, you know you've hit rock bottom. As indeed had Ursula; within two years of 'Tigers In Lipstick' she had gone into semi-retirement, surfacing only to do guest spots on soap operas and Dame Edna specials.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


By 1976, the year she turned 40, Ursula Andress was reliant on the Italians for the continuation of her career. The Italians, in turn, were reliant on creative budgeting to churn out low-grade product for the uninterested masses.

And so, taking a grubby leaf out of the sordid book of the great Roger Corman, in 1976 the production company Tritone Cinematografica traveled to Africa to make two films - 'Africa Express' and 'Safari Express' - at the same time, using the same cast, the same crew, the same sets and the same locations - basically, the only thing they changed between films was the script. They even used the same monkey, although for our second AndressFest'12 movie, 'Safari Express', they inserted a rather disturbing dream sequence in which it fantasised about marrying its owner. Maybe that sort of thing happens a lot in Africa.

Oddly enough the hero is both movies is named John Baxter, and is played by Giuliano Gemma. But the characters played by Ursula Andress and Jack Palance are different, suggesting that John Baxter lives in a world where bizarre doppelgangers are a normal occurrence.

The story begins when Baxter and his chimp Biba discover the beautiful Miriam unconscious in the jungle. When she wakes, they discover that she has amnesia, and can tell them nothing about who she is or how she got there.

It transpires (eventually) that Miriam is the sole survivor of a mining exploration team who are wiped out by natives, who, as it turns out, were in the employ of one of the team's engineers. This engineer has discovered uranium on the land of another group of good natives, and has joined forces with the evil natives to wipe out both his team and their rivals and thus secure the mining rights and fabulous wealth. But once Ursula regains her memory and realises this, it's up to her and Baxter to thwart the evil Palance and save the good natives.

'Safari Express' is notable (possibly the only time those four words have ever been used together) for being about as close as Ursula ever got to being a kickass action queen. Normally her acting involved little more than stalking about looking icy and unobtainable, but here she was delivering sharp right hooks and impressive kung fu kicks.

There's also a scene in which Ursula hides in a thatched hut and, when the murderous natives enter one by one, she smashes vases over their heads. Then, when she runs out of vases, she resorts to a stout piece of wood. This might be very slightly plausible if there were only three or four natives... but there's at least twenty. Despite the fact that the tiny hut must be getting more crammed than a clown car, they keep entering one by one, and steadfastly ignoring the smashing sounds and grunts of pain that are leaking out through the not exactly soundproof thatched walls.

But despite the kickassery ‘Safari Express’ was still a terrible film. The cinematography was bland and the soundtrack repetitive. The acting from the minor characters was so bad that it made Ursula look like... well... an actress. The humour and hijinks were lame even by Rhodesian standards. And it was set in 1951 for no good reason, other than the fact that they had a couple of battered old cars handy and hey, why not make it a period piece? Certainly there was no attempt to put Ursula into period-appropriate clothes, or, worse yet, almost no attempt to take her out of them. This is, of course, an outrage.

And yet, bad as it was, it was a cinematic triumph compared to our third and final film for AndressFest’12.

Monday, March 19, 2012


AndressFest'12 was a success, but it was not without its issues. As it was our seventh annual festival of Ursula Andress movies, the desire to avoid repetitions has driven my fellow AndressFesters and I further and further down into the murky depths of her oeuvre. The easy pickings, available on eBay and Amazon from a variety of stores, have been consumed, leaving only the rarities, the errata and, frankly, the movies so bad that there really isn't any call for them on DVD.

Things have become so bad that I was reduced to buying print-on-demand DVDs from an Amazon subcontractor, who, for roughly $50US, sent me two movies. And naturally when I put them in my DVD player, one didn't play, and the other one turned out to be a movie I already had, inserted into the wrong box.

Fortunately a couple of my fellow AndressFesters were a) tech savvy and b) prepared to venture into the dirty, hacker infested backwaters of the internet to access dodgy torrent sites in search of obscure Ursulalia. Between them they managed to download copies of the movies Amazon had failed to provide, plus a few spares for AndressFest'13. As such, AndressFest'12 was the first fully digital AndressFest, with all three movies playing off one unhappy portable hard drive rather than my DVD player.

I say "unhappy" because, well, the poor thing was loaded up with Ursula Andress movies, and our three movies for AndressFest'12 were misguided disasters that perfectly illustrated the decline of Ursula's career from 1969 to 1979.

We started in 1969, when Ursula was still a reasonably bankable star. The movie was 'The Southern Star', and within the first sixty seconds we suspected we were onto something awesome.

Top 5 Signs of Awesomeness in the first sixty seconds of 1969's 'The Southern Star'.

1. Based on the novel by Jules Verne. Captain Nemo meets Ursula Andress? Hells yeah!

2. The theme song is sung by Matt Monro. Because nothing says "African diamond mine circa 1912" quite like swanky lounge music.

3. Orson Welles. From 'Citizen Kane' and the great 'War of the Worlds' panic of 1938 to an Ursula Andress movie. What the hell happened, Orson?

4. The National Ballet of Senegal. It was either this or a production of 'Giselle'. Needless to say, they chose wrong.

5. Our Ursula. Because, to coin a cocktail metaphor, she's just the sweet sweet cherry in the manhattan of this mix.

Sweet merciful crap! It's like a wacky improv exercise rather than a series of sane production decisions. It's like deciding to make a movie based on a lesser work by Stephanie Meyer, starring wrestling superstar John Cena, Shakespearean actor Sir Ian McKellen and Cirque du Soleil... with music by Rammstein.

Not that I wouldn't totally see such a movie, of course.

Naturally after this minute of random but evocative promise, the movie fell into a stinking heap. The plot was so well-used that it deserves its own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: a magnificent diamond is discovered at the mines of the wealthy Mr Kramer, and at its unveiling party he asks his beautiful daughter Erica (Ursula Andress) to name it. She calls it The Southern Star. Moments later the lights go out, and when they come back on, the diamond has been snatched.

Who took it? Erica's gold digging boyfriend Dan (George Segal)? His acquisitive manservant Matakit (Johnny Sekka)? Karl, the vengeful head of Kramer's security (Ian Hendry)? Olga, the pet ostrich with whom her father has an entirely disturbing intimate relationship? Or was it Erica herself?

Not surprisingly, everyone blames the black guy, Matakit. But he escapes, and the hunt is on both for him and the diamond. Dan and Erica give chase, although Karl and his men attempt to thwart them at every turn, as Karl wants Erica for himself and this is the perfect opportunity for him to "accidentally" bump off the competition. Just to make things even more complicated there's Kramer's ex-head of security Plankett (Orson Welles), who lives the life of a bandit in the jungle, and who sees the diamond as both a source of wealth and a chance to stick it to his enemies. He spends a lot of time drinking and mincing and wondering what happened to his career since playing Harry Lime in 'The Third Man'.

Between all the scenes of Orson Welles mincing, Karl scheming, and Ursula providing her standard contractual nude scene, there's stock footage. Of every. Single. Animal. In. Africa. In fact one of the high points of this movie comes when Ursula is menaced by a rear projected stock footage cobra who has little regard for scale.

But it was an enjoyable enough little romp, and for all its flaws at least it wasn't boring. The same could not be said for the next two movies of AndressFest'12.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012


Atheist friend: Did you hear about that Christian stabbing down in Bunbury?

Me: What? Somebody stabbed a Christian?

Atheist friend: No, Christians stabbed each other! I overheard it on the TV news tonight, something about a feud between rival Bible groups.

Me: Really?

Atheist friend: Yeah. So much for all that peace and forgiveness thing, huh!

Me: Hmmm. Are you sure it wasn’t a feud between rival Biker groups?

Atheist friend: Oh.

Me: Well?

Atheist friend: Um… that would make more sense, wouldn’t it.

Me: So much for all that logic and evidence-based posit…

Atheist friend: YES OKAY SHUT UP!