Tuesday, March 24, 2015


As AndressFest has continued from year to year and our selection of unseen movies has dwindled, I've motivated my fellow AndressFesters to keep sourcing material by issuing a singular threat: if we can't get the movies we want, we'll be forced to watch Ursula's double episode of 'The Love Boat'.

This year, I had to act on that threat.

'The Love Boat' wasn't so exciting and new by 1983. It was in its 7th season, and roundly deserved its reputation as a repository for washed-up actors coasting on their name recognition. Along for the ride with Ursula in this particular episode were Lee Majors (The 6 Million Dollar Man), Erin Moran (Happy Days), John Forsythe (Dynasty), Linda Evans (also Dynasty) and Michael Constantine (any movie or TV show requiring a slow-moving, doughy bald man between 1949 and 2003).

As was traditional on 'The Love Boat', the narrative blended several individual storylines. Linda Evans falls in love with Lee Majors, then flounces away when she discovers he works in a field she doesn't like, but returns when he pats her silly female hand and tells her it's all okay. Meanwhile Susan Anton falls in love with Bernie Koppel, then flounces away when she discovers he works in a field she doesn't like, but returns when he pats her silly female hand and tells her it's all okay. At the same time, Patricia Klous and Erin Moran both fall in love with Lee Horsley, then flounce away when they discover the existence of each other, but return when he chooses one over the other, pats both of their silly female hands and tells them it's all okay.

I don't think these episodes were written by Andrea Dworkin, somehow.

Fortunately, Ursula wasn't required to put up with any of this flaky crap. Her story is one of love at first sight between a dying woman ticking items off her bucket list and gentleman criminal on the run. She's trying to elude the Grim Reaper, and he's trying to dodge the detective who's tracked him down. In between they relish their time together before they're dragged off to jail, or the grave, or both.

The other traditional part of a standard episode of 'The Love Boat' was a lot of fawning blather about this week's cruise destination. For Ursula's episode, it was China, which was a strange choice for a frothy TV soap in 1983, given that China was still a closed hardcore Communist dictatorship at the time, before the fall of the Soviet Union, the return of Hong Kong and the boom of the last quarter century. And with all that's happened since then, it's a little disconcerting to hear characters gush about the wonders of Tienanmen Square (which can apparently hold a million people, although presumably fewer if they've been flattened and spread out by tanks).

It's also amusing to hear characters burbling to each other about how "beautiful" everything is, despite the fact that it's TV and we can actually SEE the drab grimy buildings and listless grey trees behind them. When the most refined thing in a scene is Linda Evans' purple rayon blouse, something's not right.

Linda Evans' purple rayon blouse is emblematic of the only interesting thing in 'The Love Boat': the costumes. The words the actors are saying and the things they are doing aren't words spoken or things done by real human beings. They're not aspects of storytelling; they're lines in a formula that's been churning out scripts for seven seasons. But the costumes have space for creativity. They still don't make sense - Ursula manages to wear three full changes of outfit on a single day trip, despite not taking any luggage with her - but they're rich with the fashion semiotics of the late 70s and early 80s. Pastels, pantsuits, artificial fibres, shoulder pads and a horrible predilection for beige.

The very worst thing about this episode of 'The Love Boat' is the way that it treated our Ursula. She was a vivacious 47 year old, with a 3 year old child and a 31 year old lover. And yet here she is, forced into the role of a feisty senior citizen who could drop dead at any moment. With her white-blonde hair and awful beige leisurewear, she looks like she just stepped out of a commercial for denture adhesive or a "lifestyle village".

It's telling that her love interest was played by John Forsythe, at 65 an actual feisty senior citizen, who was nearly two decades her senior.

European love the idea of a sexy mature woman. Americans, by contrast, freak out if any woman over the age of 25 gives the impression that she has an active sex life. It's no wonder they had no idea what to do with a middle-aged Ursula Andress.

Monday, March 23, 2015


Our first movie for AndressFest'15 was 'Nightmare in the Sun'. It's an actual movie and not, as you might think, just a generic term for any Ursula Andress movie watched during daylight hours.

'Nightmare in the Sun' was the 1965 directorial debut of John Derek, who cast his then-wife Ursula Andress as one of his leads, clearly without understanding that The Curse of Ursula consigns all of her movies to cinematic doom.

Or perhaps he understood, but just didn't care. Here's how we're introduced to Ursula:

Which is all the evidence you need of why AndressFest is in its 10th year.

Ursula plays Marsha Wilson, a beautiful European girl who married a rich old American man in order to see the world, but got stuck in a boring, po-dunk town rather than experiencing the New York high life he promised her.

She's desperate to escape this dusty backwater, and spontaneously offers to drive a handsome hitchhiker (John Derek) to his destination in Los Angeles. But first they make a stop at her place to pack, take a dip in the pool, and bear witness to Ursula's collection of creepy dolls, including a terrifying miniature Richard Simmons.

But when she find out he's married, the whole plan falls apart. The hitchhiker leaves, just in time to be seen by Ursula's drunken husband, who responds to the erroneous impression that she banged the stranger by blasting her with a rifle.

Ursula he shoots once. The Miniature Richard Simmons he shoots three times. He may be drunk and crazy but he's not stupid.

Enter the local sheriff (Aldo Ray), who ironically actually was banging Ursula earlier that day. He realises that if the old man confesses to Ursula's murder, his own adultery will probably come to light and his career will be over. So he decides that they'll blame the mysterious hitchhiker. As a result, said hitchhiker becomes a hunted man, forced to dodge slack-jawed deputies, road blocks and vigilantes on top of the usual threats to movie hitchhikers, such as demonically possessed trailer trucks and Thelma and Louise.

Included in the cast of vengeance-crazed hillbillies is a local scrapyard owner (Keenan Wynn), a couple of senile animal hoarders (George Tobias and Lurene Tuttle), and two out-of-town bikers who join the hunt in the venal hope that there will be a reward. They demonstrate that even in 1965, Hollywood was still under the daft 1950s illusion that rebellious biker youths could be convincingly played by 34 year olds with thinning hair and a penchant for cardigans.

Many commentators believe there was a homosexual subtext between these two. I say that no gay man would ever leave the house dressed like that.

Eventually the hitchhiker is captured by, of all things, a creepy scoutmaster. But when he's handed over to the police, he's immediately freed: the old man, wracked with guilt, has confessed to Ursula's murder. Oh, and the sheriff's, apparently. It's as if the cameraman suddenly discovered that they only had a few feet of film left and they had to wrap up the story in eleven seconds.

'Nightmare in the Sun' wasn't a terrible film, at least not by AndressFest standards, but when the best thing about your movie is a famously beautiful but famously terrible actress... well, you could probably stand to tighten things up a bit.

It helped that Marsha was the role Ursula was born to play. Her scenes, which required her to roll nudely around a bed, climb out of a swimming pool in a clingy wet white dress, and flirt with every man she encountered under the age of fifty, were just things that Ursula would probably have been doing anyway, only this time there were cameras filming it. As such she is one of the two best things about 'Nightmare in the Sun'.

The other best thing was her car:

Marsha's car was actually Ursula's own car, a gorgeous 1958 BMW 507 Series II convertible. Only 253 were ever built, and these days a fully restored version typically sells for one to three million dollars. Ursula's own example sold for more than a million dollars in 2011.

It made sense. The ravishingly sexy Ursula Andress needed a ravishingly sexy car: she could hardly be expected to get about in a Ford Anglia. They were both stunning, rare, exotic creatures out of place in the scrubby California hinterlands. And within a year at least one of them had divorced her husband and high-tailed it back to Europe.

Sunday, March 22, 2015


While some of you were off watching decent movies (pfft) with good acting (meh) and competent direction (whatevs), several brave and foolish followers of awful cinema were partaking in AndressFest'15, my 10th annual celebration of the greatest terrible actress the world has ever known.

This is their story. Or rather it would be, if only we could remember it. Vodka, like time, heals all wounds... except of course for the ones it causes.

This year's unique AndressFest cocktail was something of a winner. Behold the murky majesty of the Sticky Ursula!

The Sticky Ursula

10 parts caramel-infused vodka

1 part American Honey

1 part Tia Maria

To make the caramel-infused vodka, dissolve some jersey caramels in vodka for at least 48 hours, at a ratio of one caramel per 100mls. Shake all ingredients in an ice-filled shaker and serve in a martini glass, garnished with a sliced date.

To go with the Sticky Ursula, I prepared the usual range of subtly evocative snacks.

None of it was even remotely good for us. Which, frankly, echoed the content of our AndressFest'15 movies.