I just finished watching a Christopher Lee movie I’d not seen before, Circus of Fear (not to be confused with Circus of Horrors which I saw on the Cheesy Movie Circus Tour). If you’ve never seen this move, there is no need to go out of your way to do so. It has all the elements of a motion picture, but as the saying goes, “there’s no there there”.
This movie was produced and written (under his oft used pseudonym, Peter Welbeck) by the one and only Harry Alan Towers. MST fans know his name from The Castle of Fu Manchu, Outlaw of Gor, The Million Eyes of Sumuru, and soon H.G. Wells’ The Shape of Things To Come. Rifftrax has also done his The Girl From Rio.
Perhaps since he was not a director, he doesn’t get the acclaim of filmmakers like Ed Wood or Roger Corman. And his movies which I have seen (I also recall seeing his 1965 version – he’s produced it three times – of Ten Little Indians on TV years ago) are not bad really, more like mediocre. As a producer, he mastered the art of making whatever deals were necessary to get his films a decent budget. You can tell money was spent on these movies; there were no cardboard sets and they did a fair amount of location filming. As a screenwriter though, he certainly never made coherency a top priority in his work.
Wikipedia shows he has 80 movies to his credit. Also a pretty interesting bio with accusations of running a vice operation in New York and being an agent for the Soviet Union.
So use this thread to talk about the best/worst/favorite HAT films, whether they have been riffed or not. Are there any of his movies you have seen and would recommend?
He was married to Maria Rohm, who is Helga in The Million Eyes of Su-Muru and appeared in several of his other films. When they tied the knot, she was 18 and he was 43. Reading that, you probably have this image in your head of a slobbering doughy guy lewdly chuckling as he prepares to deflower a naive ingenue. The photo of Towers in his IMDB profile will do nothing to dispel that visualization. Though they seem to have made it work, as they remained together until his death in 2009.
I just watch House of 1,000 Dolls this past week. a German-Spanish co-production starring Vincent Price as a touring stage magician who hypnotizes women as part of his act then sells them to a white slavery ring with Beyond Atlantis’ George Nader. The movie is described in a quote on the Wikipedia page as “the sleaziest movie AIP ever made.” House of 1,000 Dolls is not without entertainment value, I really think it would be more so if it delivered ore on the sleaze. Another quote from Price suggests they were making a porno version without his knowledge simultaneously with different leads but I don’t know if that version is extant.
Thanks for that info, Raymond. I’m a Vincent Price fan and I have heard of this movie before, but have never seen it. It sounds interesting, to say the least.
I love this little behind-the-scenes tidbit on that Wikipedia page. Since HAT knew the local Spanish authorities would never approve the filming of the script for The House of 1,000 Dolls, he gave them a copy of Abe Lincoln in Illinois instead. And then had an actor dress up as Abe Lincoln and be on set in case the local censors paid a visit.
No one would even question why Abe Lincoln in Illinois was being filmed in Madrid?
an HAT produced movie written by the illustrious Mr. Welbeck, who must have misunderstood when the former suggested his screenplay needed work on the plotting because he supplied almost wall-to-wall plodding here instead.
The movie’s opening credits takes us on a literal slow boat to China (well, a ferry boat to Hong Kong, but that’s virtually almost literal). Once there, while it seems like things are happening, including murders, a car chase, a boat chase, and even a “follow that rickshaw!” chase, nothing here will set your pulse pounding.
The “hero” is actually named Mitchell! Bob Mitchell, but as played by Bob Cummings (whose first film role was in 1935 and by 1966, when this movie was filmed, his boyish charm was pretty threadbare) he’s just as repulsive in his own way as JDB’s character.
This film was all shot in Hong Kong. One thing is for sure, HAT must have been quite the world traveler. Though I do suspect, in some cases, there were possibly some less than above board reasons why some of the money from some of his investors had to be spent in certain locations.
I’ll look out for Bullet To Beijing. I see it was a made-for-TV movie. Seeing Mr. Welbeck listed as the screenplay author here does give me some trepidation. His convoluted scripts have most often been the weakest part of an HAT movie.
I saw that version of Ten Little Indians on TV many years ago and kind of liked it. I should watch it again. HAT also produced two other versions of the same story, in 1974 and 1989.
I’ll admit that I’ve never seen any of his movies beyond the ones that were riffed, and I agree that he obviously had money spent on the movies that I’ve seen.
So I have to ask. Has anyone seen his King Solomon’s Treasure apparently based on King Solomon’s Mines? That’s kind of a classic book, and I’m interested if the movie is any good or if it’s like The Shape of Things to Come that literally has nothing to do with the novel the title is take from.
It’s been a while since I read the Quartermain books but here’s the synopsis from IMDB:
Three adventurers lead an expedition into darkest Africa in search of the treasure of King Solomon, and on the way encounter hostile natives, volcanoes, dinosaurs and a lost Phoenician city ruled by a beautiful queen.
I don’t recall any dinosaurs in the book. Or volcanos. Or beautiful queens. There’s a queen in the sequel to the book…look, let’s be honest, nobody involved read the books.
Tonight I rewatched the Rifftrax version of The Million Eyes of Sumuru. They did an excellent job with it; I’d put it in B+ or A- range. The MST3K crew will have their work cut out for them in trying to match or better their performance, but I’ve got faith they are up to the task.
It is a silly movie, as any movie starring Frankie Avalon is bound to be. Robot Monster and Beyond Atlantis star George Nader is the CIA agent leading the action here and I can almost guarantee you will very quickly want to see him maimed or killed, he is such a smug, condescending *&#@. And Klaus Kinski once again shows up in another small role in a HAT film.
But as with the other HAT movies I’ve seen, the movie itself looks good on a budget. There are some nice outdoor scenes which make good use of the Hong Kong locale. There are lots of lovely women on hand (although not the 500,000 the title suggests) and they are creatively and colorfully attired in many scenes.
I’m looking forward to the new MST version of Sumuru. I watched the original version once and let’s just say I’m in the “once is enough” camp where the KTMA years are concerned.
One of HAT’s sleazier efforts was Eugenie, an adaptation of de Sade’s La Philosophie dans le Boudoir, which should tell you plenty. This one sticks to mind thanks to its entry in The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film. Or rather the photo included in which a nude Maria Rohm is seducing a nude Marie Liljedahl. Why yes, it did get an X rating. If you feel up to seeing it, it’s actually available for rent on Amazon Prime.