Captive Women/3000 A.D. (1952)

Captive Women (1952)‘You are the first of all Norm women to come to a Mutate husband of her own free will.’

More than a thousand years in the future, the atomic war has left the world in ruins. What remains of the population is divided into warring factions of Norms and Mutates; those who escaped the disfiguring effects of radioactivity, and those who have not.

Unusual, low-budget science-fiction from producer Albert Zugsmith (with a title by Howard Hughes!), which was the first film ever to depict a post-nuclear holocaust society. We’re over a thousand years into the future here, and all that remains after the bomb is a twisted New York skyline and scattered scraps of humanity living in the wreckage. Our virtuous heroes are the cave-dwelling ‘Norms’, untouched by the nuclear scourge and busy preparing for the wedding of the chief’s son, played by cult movie legend Robert Clarke.

Our hero’s bride-to-be is dark-eyed Gloria Saunders, who proves to be less than an ideal romantic choice. For a start, she happens to be the daughter of the high priest (not usually a good sign) and she’s carrying on behind the scenes with the ambitious Jason (Douglas Evans), who’s hungry to sit in the big chair currently occupied by Clarke’s father. Across the river (via a hidden tunnel) are the Mutates, led by Riddon (Ron Randell). They’re ugly and scarred and their main preoccupation seems to be kidnapping ‘Norm’ women in the hopes of birthing ‘clean’ children. On the bright side, they’ve kept their faith in God, while the Norms worship the devil! Also mixing things up are the nasty ‘Up River Men’ led by Stuart Randall.

The film opens with more than five minutes of ‘flashback’ stock footage, including planes, trains, the UN building and the inevitable mushroom cloud. Wonderfully self-important VoiceOver Man informs us that what we are about to see might really happen and he seems to be enjoying the possibility far too much. Given that the film only runs 64 minutes, it’s quite a chunk of the film’s total length. When the future finally arrives, it turns out to be a small, poorly-lit sound stage peopled by extras dressed in what appears to be left over costumes from a low budget production of Robin Hood! The dialogue is similarly old-fashioned and formal and most of the women have been relegated to cooking the grub and serving the ale. Weapons of choice are bows and arrows and quarterstaffs, and Clarke tops it all off with a nifty Errol Flynn moustache. His character is even called Rob!

Captive Women (1952)

‘Get Thee to Nottingham Castle, Robin!’

Up-River Randall and his goons conquer the Norm’s stronghold with the aid of the treacherous Evans and bad girl Saunders. Evans gets his predictable comeuppance, of course, while Saunders becomes Randall’s new woman and lords it over everyone including feisty heroine Margaret Field. But, not to worry! Robin and Little John (sorry, Clarke and his anonymous sidekick) team up with the Mutates to restore the balance of power. Because they might be ugly but their quite a nice bunch, despite forcing themselves on kidnapped women for the past few decades. It helps that their leader is the handsome Randell, who’s hardly scarred at all really. So he’s ok.

The script here is by Jack Pollexfen and Aubrey Wisberg and includes a surprising amount of Biblical references. We never see any evidence that the Norms are practising Satanists (no surprise, there!), and a less generous commentator than myself might think that’s just an excuse to give Randell the opportunity to pontificate about his faith in the Lord, although he is quickly interrupted by rabble-rouser William Schallert. However, later on, we get a direct parallel to Moses parting the Red Sea, which Clarke is happy to appropriate as a plan (thought he was supposed to be a Satanist?!) All this action moves along at quite a fair clip, but nothing that happens is remotely surprising.

Writer Pollexfen was used to plundering the classics, given his scripts for ‘The Son of Dr Jekyll’ (1951) and ‘The Daughter of Dr Jekyll’ (1957) and it’s pretty clear this one owes more than a slight debt to H G Wells’ ‘The Time Machine.’ Clarke went on to cult movie godhood with a CV that includes ‘The Man From Planet X’ (1951) (which also featured Field and Schallert), ‘The Astounding She Creature’ (1957), ‘Beyond The Time Barrier’ (1960), the title role of ‘The Hideous Sun Demon’ (1958) (which he also directed!) and a few projects with bad movie legend Jerry Warren, including ‘The Incredible Petrified World’ (1959) and the bat-shit crazy ‘Frankenstein Island’ (1981). Randell appeared in slightly more legitimate productions such as musical ‘Kiss Me Kate’ (1953) (playing Cole Porter!), ‘The Story of Esther Costello’ (1957) and Christ biopic ‘King of Kings’ (1961).

Captive Women (1952)

‘You can get married so long as you don’t play that Bryan Adams song.’

But the real success stories lie elsewhere. Supporting actor Schallert went onto a screen career that lasted over 65 years, only ending with his death in 2016 at the age of 93. His credits include featured roles in ‘Gremlins’ (1984), ‘In The Heat of the Night’ (1967), ‘Colossus: The Forbin Project’ (1969), ‘Charley Varrick’ (1973), ‘Innerspace’ (1987), and TV appearances on ‘Roseanne’, ‘True Blood’, ‘Star Trek’, ‘ER’, ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’ and dozens of other hit shows. You may not know the name, but you’d certainly recognise the face.

Director Stuart Gilmore was three times Oscar nominated as an Editor, for his work on ‘The Alamo’ (1960), ‘Airport’ (1970) and ‘The Andromeda Strain’ (1970). He also fulfilled the role on ‘Sullivan’s Travels’ (1941), ‘Journey To The Centre of the Earth’ (1959) and ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’ (1967), among others.

This is a production with some points of interest, but not a great level of entertainment value. There are also some very mixed messages about the importance of physical appearance, although the film’s heart does seem to be in the right place. Unfortunately, its moral and physical conflicts result in highly predictable outcomes and the cheesier aspects rob the drama of any real punch.

Watch for curiosity value.

The Beat Generation (1959)

The Beat Generation (1959)‘You’re the most, but there’s no tomorrow, not while the sky drools radiation gumdrops.’

A serial rapist terrorises the housewives of L.A. attacking them in their homes. A detective on the case finds that the trail leads to a club frequented by beatniks. When the perpetrator targets the policeman’s wife, the case gets personal to the point of obsession…

Seriously oddball exploitation flick that tries to deliver about four separate movies for the price of one. Firstly, we get the usual police procedural with rugged ’tec Steve Cochran trying to run down a serial sex offender that the press has dubbed ‘The Aspirin Kid’. He’s played by the handsome, smooth talking Ray Danton, who is too old for the part but certainly knows how to flash his pearly whites and fill out a sharp suit. And don’t worry, that’s not a spoiler; one of the few things the movie doesn’t try to provide is a ‘whodunnit’ kind of mystery. Danton’s motivation is just ‘kicks’ (Daddio!), so he targets Cochran’s wife, played by Fay Spain.

The Beat Generation (1959)

‘Look, doll, I’m gonna sit here ’til I meet someone under thirty, dig?’

And Danton’s attack on Spain gives rise to our second film: a daring commentary on ‘social issues’. Spain is pregnant after the rape and doesn’t want the kid because Danton might be the father. Abortion was still illegal in California at the time, and Cochran is conflicted (and completely useless, more concerned with the letter of the law than supporting his wife). So it’s down to local parish priest (an unbilled William Schallert) to do a little pro-life speech to change her mind.

But the most interesting aspect of the film is different again. Cochran is a seriously dedicated policeman; so dedicated in fact that it’s already cost him one marriage. He takes no responsibility for the failure of that relationship at all; believing his first wife was a ‘tramp’ because she played around. The fact that he was never home had nothing to do with it, of course. And we soon have plenty of evidence that he thinks of all women in the same way. Unforgivably, he harasses all the victims of Danton’s attacks with the insane justification that they will contact him again (because actually they enjoyed it, right?) This is a mirror image of Danton’s own attitude to the fair sex and makes for a potentially intriguing character based drama that was considerably ahead of its time. It’s highly likely these interesting elements were the contribution of author and co-screenwriter Richard Matheson, whose other credits include the original novels of ‘I Am Legend’ and ‘The Incredible Shrinking Man’ as well as screenplays such as the neglected ‘Fanatic’ (1965), the Christopher Lee classic ‘The Devil Rides Out’ (1968), and Steven Spirelberg’s ‘Duel’ (1971). He also contributed scripts for TV shows ‘The Twilight Zone’, ‘The Outer Limits’, ‘Star Trek’ (the original series) and ‘The Martian Chronicles.’

Unfortunately, any possibilities of the movie attaining any level of quality are firmly torpedoed by the final element of the project. As you may have gathered from the title, the main aim of notorious low-budget producer Albert Zugmsith was to cash-in on the short-lived ‘beat craze’ of the late 1950s. So Danton is a hep cat who hates ‘squares’, quotes Schopenhauer and makes the scene at happenin’ beach front joint ‘The Golden Sealion’ (is it a nightclub or a coffee shop? You decide!)

The Beat Generation (1959)

Mamie kept having flashbacks to ‘The Navy Vs The Night Monsters’

The climax features Cochran tied up in the backroom with potential victim Mamie Van Doren while Danton takes a break to play bongos in the ‘beat hootenanny’ taking place next door! When Cochran gets free, he finds his efforts are hampered by various ‘beats’ who engage him in a slapstick wrestling match whilst playing some kind of bizarre version of ‘ring-a-ring-a-roses’ (or are they trying to start a conga?) Anyway, it’s beyond ridiculous. You do have to give Zugmsith credit for one thing, though. Perhaps inspired by big-budget monolith ‘Around The World ln 80 Days’ (1956) in which every part (however small) was played by a Hollywood star, he assembled what is probably the most bizarre and eclectic supporting cast of all time.

The film opens with the Golden Sealion’s house band delivering the theme song, which is probably the best thing about the movie. Why? Because they are played by Louis Armstrong and his All-Stars of course! Satchmo even gets a couple of lines of dialogue at one point. Also in the club is Ed Wood veteran, TV host, and cool cat Vampira who appears out of her usual ghoulish make up to deliver a poem with a white rat on her shoulder. It will make you flip, man. Tying up the phone as an over-age, semi-stoned ‘beat’ is Charles Chaplin Jr, and performing on guitar is Dick Contino, who in real life was a famous accordion player with links to the mob. He was later immortalised in stories by ‘L.A. Confidential’ author James Ellroy.

The Beat Generation (1959)

‘Steve, can’t you keep these photographers out of your dressing room?’

Familiar Hollywood heavy and ex-champion prize fighter ‘Slapsie’ Maxie Rosenbloom is also on hand, as is Norman Grabowski who once featured in ‘Life’ magazine and does a mean impression of a motorbike. ls that enough for you? No? Ok, Danton’s sidekick is played by Jim (eldest son of Robert) Mitchum and down the street we get a song from hitmaker Cathy (daughter of Bing) Crosby. Cochran’s partner at fuzz central is Jackie Coogan, who became a star at the age of 7 as ‘The Kid’ (1921) opposite Charlie Chaplin. Finally, Spain’s best friend is played by Irish McCalla, who was more familiar as a blonde in leopard skin playing TV’s ‘Sheena, Queen of the Jungle’!

Overall, performances are variable with most of the above merely supplying extended cameos and leaving the heavy lifting to Cochran (who glowers a lot), Van Doren (certainly a lot better than she was in hilarious train wreck ‘The Navy Vs. The Night Monsters’ (1954)) and Spain who manages well in a one-note, thankless ‘victim’ role. On set entertainment was apparently supplied by Cochran and Van Doren who vanished into his dressing room for a quick bunk up every chance they got.

This is a strangely fascinating compilation of disparate elements, none of which gel into anything that’s even remotely convincing. The ‘counter-culture’ scenes are tame beyond belief; the closest we get to any recreational substances being the aspirin that Danton uses as part of his criminal M.O. ls it all supposed to be a satire? Given the time that’s gone by, that’s hard to say. More likely it was a once-serious script hijacked by Zugsmith who grafted on the trendy trappings with box office returns firmly in his mind.

The late 1950s as seen through the eyes of a low-brow producer of low-budget b-movies.