On Smithee's more obscure works:

On Smithee's more obscure works

Al Dekker mentions three films for a start:

Grey Zone 1:
Ah--but you have barely tapped the tumescent tip of this fine visionary's outre oeuvre.

What of the thought-provoking BLOODSUCKING PHARAOHS IN PITTSBURGH? The finely-wrought STITCHES? Or the recent star-spanning epic SOLAR CRISIS, featuring a reanimated Charlton Heston AND Jack Palance in their first pairing to date?

Kubrick? Fellini? Hitchcock?

Phaw! Mr. S. is the man with the plan.

Grey Zone 1:
Which brings to mind Mr Smithee's trailblazing, and tersely-titled BUSWOMEN (1962),

And that eternal moment when first we see Beverly Garland, Marian Carr and Collen Gray in the title role, towering over puny Santa Monica Blvd, their bodies now twenty-foot-tall RTD buses with headlights glaring through their angora sweaters in place of breast--nay, in a radical juxtaposition of the machine aesthetic against the post-war sylvan cityscape; one shudders with forbidden pleasure at that sequence of diamond-clear inspiration.

Al Dekker:
I agree! And what about BUSWOMEN: THE CHOP SHOP MODELS with a sadly overlooked performance by Tura Satana as Cactus Rose the white slaver!
Grey Zone 1:
Yes! And John Saxon's fine turn as Rolfe, was, in my opinion, definitive. Fuck what Kael says!
Al Dekker:
Shit, Kael digs DePalma. And how does DRESSED TO KILL compare to KILLER IN A DRESS (1974)? Damned poorly, I think. Another fine turn by Saxon in that one -- this time as a knife-wielding cross-dresser.

Give it up, Pauline.

Smithee and Kael had a thing going for a while. The "dea-ex-machina" character in HERCULES VS THE RAFTMEN (Cinecitta,1966) , who delivers the magic scroll to Hercules (Not Steve Reeves in this one... it was the Harryhausen lead Kerwin Matthews), was not only based on Kael, but was named "K-El".
Grey Zone 1:
Speaking of Smithee's unfortunately truncated days at Cinecitta (something to do with goats, lies all), there is a persistant rumor in the higher echelons of film academia that The Man once was poised to co-helm a feature with legendary horror stylist, Mario Bava. The film, according to sources, was to be called PLANET OF HERCULES , with Joseph Cotton as all the Greek Gods (!), Bobby Darin as Hercules, and Barbara Steele as Susie.
x. trapnel:
I believe the two had a falling out over some disparaging remarks Smithee made about Bava's intricately expressionistic coloured lighting schemes and about the local cuisine. as a perfectionist, Bava was more than willing to listen to criticisms about the former, but as an Italian, he was not about to tolerate insults about the latter.

To this day, as a result, Smithee still walks with a slight limp.

Oh, and as to why he did not appear in PIERROT LE FOU: Smithee answered that question in an interview, saying "Have you ever tried reading a Paris subway map? The goddamn things are in FRENCH!"

Grey Zone 1:
Perhaps some of my colleagues could help me out here. Back in the mid-70s, when heist films like THE HOT ROCK , FUN WITH DICK AND JANE and 11 HARROWHOUSE were all the rage, Smithee produced his own hipster heist film, starring, I believe, Russ Tamblyn, Martin Denny and Antonio Vargas as a motley crew of Queens blue-coller schnooks who plan to steal a precious emerald hidden somewhere on the person of the Michegan Milk Queen Winner's body (Rainbeaux Smith).

Unfortunately, I was overseas when this film premeired at the Harris and since, have heard othing about it in the journals. I believe it's working title was SNATCH!, but I could be wrong.

I beg your generous assistance in this enigma.

toxic shakti:
Haven't heard about this Smithee opus, Grey, but I've been screening bits of the maitre's visionary--or perhaps brilliantly retrograde-- I WAS NORIEGA'S LOVE SLAVE . The reason for my hesitancy re: descriptive adjective stems from doubts about when this film was made. It's b&w, runs 87 minutes, and thrums with the paranoia that is the hallmark of the red-scare flicks of the 50s. But the object of the creeping distress is not commies but narco-terrorists, as personified by the pineapple-faced Panamanian Manuel Noriega (played tersely but authoritatively by the late Rondo Hatton).

The presence of Hatton, and of other now-defunct screen presences like Dick York, Dick Foran, and Terry Moore, suggests a 1950s vintage. But what is Noriega doing in the 1950s? Why is the U.S. president (played by York) named Bush? And what can account for the erotic frankness that surrounds the Pres's Press Secretary's (Terry Moore's) liaison with the Central American strongman, who sweeps her off her feet with daiquaris and mariachi music (Smithee's Panama suggests a cross between Acapulco and Havana, with guayabara - shirted extras) during a tropical vacation and then uses her as a wormhole into the White House before she wises up? The sparks struck by Moore and Hatton, whose speech, alas, was thickened almost into incomprehensibility by the acromegaly that would kill him at a tragically early age (his line-dubs are credited to Jeremy Irons, who "got" Noriega's accent by once again donning the oral prosthesis he wore in HOUSE OF THE SPIRITS), made this 1996 viewer's palms sweat.

Can you imagine how they would have affected movie-goers of the age of Ozzie and Harriet? If I'm not mistaken, there is a 2-second nipple shot half hidden by the shadow of a coconut palm, though Smithee's dextrous camera sleight-of-hand makes it unclear whether the nipple belongs to Moore or Hatton. Not to mention the daring steam-bath mano a mano between Noriega, Bush and a G-Man played by Dick Foran. Predictably, he ends up getting Moore, but not before her womanhood has been sullied by some swarthy (and possibly nubbly-textured) Latino love-pole.

Can anyone clear up these anomalies? Was I WAS NORIEGA's LOVE SLAVE made 40 or 5 years ago? Or might it possibly be the most attenuated film project of all time, begun, perhaps, as a conventional red-scare potboiler, then marooned in some Sargasso of politics, only to be reshot and re-edited many years later, by an older, wiser auteur? Maybe the Noriega character was originally called Arbenz?

I WAS NORIEGA'S LOVE SLAVE was re-released in 1989 with colorized outtake footage of Rondo Hatton as Noriega in it, to capitalize on Bush's little Panamanian war. No wonder you were confused!
Al Dekker:
Mr. Shakti, thank you for shedding light on the finest Noriega love slave movie ever made.

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Copyright 1996 by the respective authors