Friday, November 3, 2023


I've always been a huge fan of those Annette Funicello / Frankie Avalon Beach Party movies. As a staple of Saturday afternoon TV growing up, I looked forward to them for their terrific music, minimal clothing, rhythm-challenged dancers, and engagingly silly plotlines. Essentially live-action cartoons, these lowbrow, low-budget musical comedies were a great deal of mindless fun enlivened by a knowing, slapstick playfulness and an utter lack of pretension. 

Funnier and far more clever than they tend to get credit for, those Annette & Frankie films appealed to me because they always seemed to be in on the joke. Loaded with satirical pop culture references and characters who broke the 4th wall to address the audience, the scripts for these movies knew that they were just soggy, song-filled teen nonsense and seldom passed up an opportunity to poke fun at themselves.
Plus, for a budding cinephile like me, the bonus was having folks like Yvonne De Carlo, Buster Keaton, Elsa Lanchester, Dorothy Malone, Mickey Rooney, and Timothy Carey turn up in minor roles.  
Even as a kid (which wouldn't have been more than a few years after these films were made), I knew that the stiff-haired, clean-cut, parent-free, all-white world of sun, sand, and surfboards these movies took place in was wholly untethered to anything resembling a recognizable reality. (Indeed, the entire Beach Party series borders on absurdist.) But as far as I was concerned, the patent artificiality of it all was just another part of what made these charmingly corny movies so endearing. 
"Are we the corniest couple you've ever seen, or what?|"
In their solo movie appearances, preternaturally boyish Frankie Avalon and eternal girl-next-door Annette Funicello were charismatic as all get-out, but neither had me reaching for my dark glasses to shield me from their megawatt star quality. Annette, whom I've been in love with since her Mickey Mouse Club days, always seemed to level off at "favorite middle-school teacher in a pageant" appealing competency, while Frankie, as a solo screen presence, tended to give facetious, all-surface performances that oozed a vaguely smarmy vibe. 
But together, they were beach blanket magic.

There's an oft-repeated quote attributed to Katharine Hepburn relating to the onscreen chemistry of  Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers: "He gave her class, and she gave him sex appeal."
I wish I could come up with something equally terse and succinct about Annette and Frankie's unique chemistry, for they were truly the heart of those Beach Party movies. They grounded the slapstick antics in something human. You liked them, you cared about them, and you were always rooting for them to end up walking off into the sunset together.  
Why did Annette and Frankie click? I dunno. The best I can manage is that Frankie took some of the starch out of Annette, and Annette made Frankie come across less (to borrow a line from Back to the Beach): "Like an Italian loan shark."
Hip To Be Square
Annette & Frankie made six Beach Party movies together, their final pairing in 1965. For many, this signaled the end of an era. But who would have guessed our suntanned sweethearts were saving the best for last? 
More than two decades after they wrote their last love letters in the sand, Funicello & Avalon reteamed in what both stars have called their favorite and best Beach Party movie: Back to the Beach
The debut feature film of Australian telejournalist, photographer, and short film/music video director Lyndall Hobbs, Back to the Beach is a candy-colored, polka-dotted slice of waggish-on-wry that good-naturedly spoofs '60s pop culture and the entire Beach Party genre. Serving up ample doses of surf, sand, songs, and silliness, Back to the Beach is also an affectionate tribute to its stars, who gamely and hilariously send up their own squeaky-clean images.

Annette Funicello as Annette
Frankie Avalon as The Big Kahuna
Connie Stevens as Connie

Costing more than all six Beach Party movies combined, Back to the Beach has Annette and Frankie recreating their singin' & surfin' screen alter egos twenty-two years after their final beach blanket kiss fade-out in 1965's How to Stuff a Wild Bikini. Unable to secure the rights to the characters they created in the original films (most often named Frankie & Dolores, aka " Dee Dee"), for Back to the Beach, Funicello goes by Annette, and Avalon's character isn't given a name at all. Billed in the credits as "Annette's Husband," Avalon is only referred to by his surfer glory days nickname, The Big Kahuna. A running gag has no one being able to get it right, calling him everything from The Big Chihuahua to The Big Caboose.
Demian Slade as Bobby
Serving double duty as narrator and audience surrogate, his sarcastic asides
 give us permission to laugh at Frankie & Annette's outmoded, absurdly wholesome image      
Lori Loughlin and Tommy Hinkley as Sandi and Michael
Now middle-aged and married with two kids, our one-time sun-loving, fun-loving couple have moved far from the beaches of California to suburban Ohio, where they live a life of pink-hued, mid-century modern splendor. But their lives have slipped into a rut. Frankie is a stressed-out used car salesman, Annette self-medicates her middle-class ennui with obsessive shopping (mainly for Skippy Peanut Butter), and their 14-year-old son Bobby (Demian Slade) is going through a rebellious stage (punk, I think) where he dresses like Alan Arkin in Wait Until Dark.
The solution for everybody is a much-needed Hawaiian vacation, but first, a quick detour to California to visit their college-age daughter Sandi (Lori Loughlin, decades before her association with the word “college” got all icky and felonious).
The Friendly Skies
And so, on the sunny shores of Malibu where it all began, our sand dune sweethearts of the Sixties revisit the past (old flame Connie Stevens); confront the present (their daughter did what Annette and Frankie never dared, shacked up with her fiancé); and conquer old demons (surf-phobic Frankie squares off against the Humunga Cowabunga from Down Under). 
And along the way, to the rhythm of surf tunes, pajama parties, and celebrity cameos, love is rekindled, and a happy ending moral emerges: It's never too late to start creating your new "good old days," and when all is said and done, there's absolutely nothing wrong with being corny.

As an unofficial Mouseketeer overenamored of '60s music, pop culture, Beach movies, and Annette Funicello, in particular, I would appear to have been the ideal demographic for Back to the Beach. But in truth, upon its release, I was among those who mistakenly thought they knew what to expect (i.e., something along the lines of those absolutely dreadful "nostalgia trot-out" TV-movie reunions for shows like Leave It To Beaver and Father Knows Best), so I avoided Back to the Beach like an oil spill. (My looss. I would have loved seeing this on the big screen.)
Joe Holland as Zed
A contemporary beach baddie to replace Eric Von Zipper
(the late, great Harvey Lembeck)

When I finally got around to seeing Back to the Beach on cable TV, I was overjoyed (and more than a little surprised) to discover how deftly this irresistible little gem of a movie subverted all of my expectations. Against all odds and statistical probabilities, Back to the Beach turned out to be this knowing, shrewdly clever, laugh-out-loud funny, musical parody of the entire Beach Party genre. A zany delight from start to finish, Back to the Beach somehow—without being cynical or superior—struck a tone that balanced affectionate nostalgia and mockingly self-referential humor in a manner that created a kind of comic bridge allowing folks who like Beach Party movies sincerely and those who like them ironically to both have a good time.
John Calvin as Troy
In what could be called the "Aron Kincaid" role, Calvin plays a beach lothario
who (in a welcome change from the traditional Beach Party fetishization
of the wriggling female backside) offers some equal opportunity eye candy
in his itsy bitsy, teenie weenie, yellow tiger-striped bikini.

It couldn't have been easy spoofing a genre that spent so much of its time spoofing itself (as Back to the Beach's small army of 17 credited screenwriters most certainly attests), but the payoff is that the jokes--all playfully poking fun at the fashions, mores, music, and relentless cheerfulness of the Beach Party movies--are so varied in approach that they lend the film a loony exuberance. A movie ahead of its time, there's culture clash comedy that predates The Brady Bunch Movie (1995) and snarky riff humor of the sort that would make TVs Mystery Science Theater 3000 into such a hit the following year.
Guitar Legends
Dick Dale ("King of the Surf Guitar") and Stevie Ray Vaughn
Dick Dale & His Del-Tones appeared in Beach Party and Muscle Beach Party

It has always been something of a fool's errand trying to figure out where the real Frankie and Annette began and where their images ended. While both stars made token bids at counterculture relevance in 1968 (Funicello in the psychedelic Monkees movie Head, Avalon in Otto Preminger's paean to LSD, Skidoo), by and large, the two always seemed comfortable (or resigned) to forever being linked to their screen personas.
This comfort is evident in the fun they two appear to be having skewering their own images in Back to the Beach. The script declares open season on everything from Frankie's helmet hair to Annette's legendarily ample figure (never in a way mean-spirited or at the cost of making them look ridiculous ), and the pair get into the spirit of the things in a way that reveals them to be good sports and possessors of a hipper sense of humor than they've been given credit for. 
It has the cumulative effect of humanizing them, and both stars come off the best they ever have on screen. 
O.J. Simpson's cameo ups Back to the Beach's felon count 

Whatever type it is or whatever it's called, the comic sensibility 
of Back to the Beach is right up my alley. I love my nostalgia on wry. 
(The terrific Demian Slade has most of the best lines.)
Speaking of nostalgia, Back to the Beach is a boomer bonanza of '60s cameos. (Clockwise from top l.) Bob Denver & Alan Hale of Gilligan's Island; Don Adams of Get Smart; Tony Dow, Barbara Billingsley, & Jerry Mathers of Leave it to Beaver; and Edd Byrnes of 77 Sunset Strip.

What would a Beach Party movie be without music? In Back to the Beach, I like how the movie is a straight comedy until wound-tighter-than-mainspring Frankie drinks a Stunned Mullet at Daddy-O's and then launches into a rousing rendition of The Rivieras' "California Sun" with Connie Stevens. From then on, fun, colorful musical numbers pop up sporadically (but not nearly enough for my taste) throughout the rest of the film.
Frankie, Connie, and Annette all had Top Ten record  
hits during the late '50s and early '60s.
Annette updates her 1964 song "Jamaica Ska" with a  
little help from alt-rock band Fishbone 
Paul Reubens as Pee Wee Herman is joined by the cast to sing
 "Surfin' Bird."  Pee Wee's Playhouse had only premiered the year before. 
In 1988, Annette & Frankie were guests on the iconic Pee Wee's Playhouse Christmas Special
The cast sings "Some Things Live Forever," which failed to
make it to the film's soundtrack LP, but became a staple of 
Frankie & Annette's live concert "Back to the Beach Tour" 1989-1991

I blame it on our Culture of Closure, but there is an undeniable fantasy curiosity (among Boomers, especially) about the imagined futures of fictional characters from our pop culture past. Perhaps because these characters represented such wildly idealized visions of American life, gender roles, and traditional (conservative) values, pursuing the "Whatever became of?" is all about being reassured. 
If those eternal sweethearts Annette and Frankie finally got married and did indeed live happily ever after, then most certainly, those optimistic fantasies they promoted couldn't have been false. Could they?


Although I didn't see Back to the Beach until it began playing on cable TV, I recall at the time that it was heavily promoted with a soundtrack LP, TV commercials (with voiceover by Wolfman Jack), and ticket giveaways. Plus, as above-the-title stars and co-executive producers, Funicello and Avalon made themselves available for countless interviews and talk show appearances. But as director Lyndall Hobbs relates in the film's Blu-ray featurette, the eventual release of Back to the Beach was a virtual wipeout due to Paramount Studios' dwindling enthusiasm for their product. 
Polka Dot Paradise
You have to be a certain age (mine, apparently) to get that Sandi's friend Robin (far right -Laura Lanoil/Laura Urstein) is a throwback to Gidget's best friend Larue, who loved the beach but always wore a ton of clothes to protect her skin from the sun

Paramount (rightfully so, perhaps) saw Back to the Beach as a movie for the public, not the critics. The studio's eventual release strategy—declaring a media blackout and denying the press advance access to the film—may have succeeded in forestalling any anticipated bad reviews and granted their film an opening weekend driven by fan interest and word-of-mouth, but it also gave the impression that Paramount had given up on, or worse, was somehow embarrassed by, Back to the Beach.

Soundtrack LPs became essential movie marketing tools after Saturday Night Fever. The cover of the Back to the Beach album employs a tres-'80s Memphis Design whimsy to suggest the music's Old-School meets New Wave tone. My favorite track: David Kahne's "Sun, Sun, Sun, Sun, Sun," performed over the closing credits by Marti Jones. 

Further evidence of last-minute cold feet on Paramount's part is the fact that in Los Angeles, Back to the Beach was initially set to open on Friday, August 7, 1987, at the high-profile Mann’s Chinese Theater (as per the TWO full-page ads in the Sunday Times)in Hollywood. But opening day saw Mann's Chinese reluctant to relinquish its hold on the Ritchie Valens biopic La Bamba (then in its third week and the unanticipated sleeper hit of the summer) and bumping Back to the Beach to its less-prestigious sister theater, The Hollywood, just up the street. 
Director Lyndall Hobbs
It always surprised me that so little of Back to the Beach's advance publicity referenced its director. One would think that a woman making her feature film directorial debut (carrying her 4-month-old daughter on her hip, no less) with a $12 million musical comedy would be a made-to-order publicity angle. That is until I remembered how the $18 million 1978 Bee Gees musical Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band made its African-American director (Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame recipient Michael Schultz) its best-kept secret. (For his sake, in hindsight, perhaps that was a blessing.)
Lyndall Hobbs’ contributions to making Back to the Beach such a delight are incalculable (it was her idea to turn the script [co-authored by ex-husband Chris Thompson] into a musical), yet despite the film's emerging status as a cult hit, it has remained Hobbs’ sole feature film directing credit. 

For proof of what a miraculous feat and balancing act of nostalgia, music, and humor Back to the Beach truly is, one need look no further than the 1978 unsold TV pilot Frankie & Annette: The Second Time Around. Produced by Dick Clark, this labored, excruciatingly sincere 60-minute episode cast Annette as a Vietnam war widow working as a housemother at a girl's college dorm who reunites with her old flame, Frankie, now a failed pop singer.  A bid to cash in on the nostalgic goodwill ignited by Avalon's recent stint as Teen Angel in the hit movie Grease (1978), the program is 100% of what those Beach Party movies never were: boring.   

Annette and Frankie's final feature film appearance together was in the comedy Troop Beverly Hills (1989). It's a visual gag cameo that has the couple jogging outside The Beverly Hills Hotel, Annette breezily running along (in a hot pink tracksuit calling to mind Lisa Kudrow's "Aunt Sassy" in The Comeback)  singing her 1959 Top Ten hit "Tall Paul," while a winded and trailing Frankie calls out, "Annette, wait up!"  
The highlighting of Annette's effortless athleticism adds a note of bittersweet charm to this amusing coda to the duo's 26-year onscreen association, for in just three years, Funicello would go public with her MS (multiple sclerosis) diagnosis. The first symptoms of which she began to experience while making Back to the Beach. Annette Funicello passed away in 2013 at the age of 70. 

Annette Funicello was the eternal girl-next-door. She first married at age 22 on
Saturday, Jan. 9, 1965. On that day, this comic appeared in newspapers nationwide

Sure, maybe Annette & Frankie may have been the corniest couple I'd ever seen. 
But they were also one of the most endearing.   

Copyright © Ken Anderson   2009 - 2023

Saturday, September 2, 2023


* Spoiler Alert! This critical essay presumes the reader's familiarity with the 1956 film The Bad Seed and features major spoilers. Plot points and details related to both films are divulged for critical discussion and analysis.

Show of hands; how many of you folks out there were aware of a 1963 Turkish remake of that beloved camp classic about pigtails, penmanship, and passed-on psychopathology, The Bad Seed (1956)? That many, huh? I don't believe you.
Please appreciate, dear reader, any aspersions cast on your doubtless incontrovertible honesty is simply me projecting my absolute gobsmacked astonishment at how—after being near-obsessed with The Bad Seed for nigh on six decades—I've only just NOW discovered this movie! And it commemorating its 60th anniversary, no less.

From what little I've been able to glean, Kötü Tohum (Bad Seed) was a very popular release in its country of origin but was never given a foreign market release in the U.S. .… perhaps for copyright-related reasons (its score is comprised of music culled from disparate sources, e.g., Leonard Bernstein's "Maria" cha-cha from West Side Story and Alex North's "Unchained Melody.”) All of which would explain why I never saw it, but does absolutely nothing toward clearing up how, in all these years, I never managed to hear or read a single word about the existence of this extraordinary remake of a lifelong favorite. Indeed, had it not been for a blurry, TV-to-VHS transfer of Kötü Tohum popping up in my YouTube suggestions menu a few years back (which seems to be the only copy in circulation), I might never have seen it at all.

Nancy Kelly as Christine Penmark and Patty McCormack as Rhoda Penmark

By way of a bit of backstory: The Bad Seed is a 1954 bestselling suspense novel by William March whose plot is built on the somewhat wobbly premise of an angel-faced 8-year-old inheriting the homicidal genes of her serial-killer grandmother. The then-explosive theme of a child committing cold-blooded murders appealed to Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Maxwell Anderson (Key Largo, Anne of the Thousand Days), who turned March's book into a Tony Award-winning Broadway play later that year.

The sweet smell of Broadway success wafted all the way to Hollywood, and in 1956, movie director Mervyn LeRoy (Little Caesar, Gypsy) retained the services of most of the Broadway cast for the somewhat sensationalized screen adaptation. The Hays Office, Hollywood's self-regulating censorship board, mandated The Bad Seed alter its original twist ending (which saw Rhoda getting away with her crimes) to one in which Rhoda involuntarily keeps an appointment with "Heaven's Electric Chair." With a reassuring "cast curtain call," coda tacked on for good measure. The movie version of The Bad Seed was a boxoffice hit with 4 Academy Award nominations.
1956                                                1963

The Bad Seed premiered on broadcast TV in 1962, quickly becoming a late-night movie programming staple. I saw it for the first time in 1966 when I was eight. My initial impressions: a) It was really scary, b) "Au Clair de la Lune" would forever creep me out, and c) Rhoda Penmark was my first movie monster that wasn't a vampire, werewolf, or creature from outer space.
But just as quickly—thanks to the dated artifice of its plot, its stagey over-rehearsed performances, and Patty McCormack's James-Cagney-in-a-pinafore take on Rhoda—chills were soon replaced by chuckles, and The Bad Seed morphed irretrievably into a movie I loved for its camp appeal and unintentional laughs. 
Stateside, The Bad Seed has only spawned TV movie remakes. 
The first, starring David Carradine & Blair Brown, aired on ABC in 1985. The latter two (2018 & 2022) were rare non-Christmas-themed Lifetime Network movies in which Patty McCormack appeared as an unusually inept child psychologist. Rob Lowe gender-flipped the Nancy Kelly role in the 2018 movie, which I think abandoned the whole hereditary thing (I can't be sure because I fell asleep watching it).      

Subsequent TV movie remakes (at least three, by my count) sought to rectify this, but those not hampered by their utter lack of distinction in the casting department (not just any kid with a SAG card can step into Patty McCormack's metal-cleated Mary Janes) betrayed their fundamental lack of understanding of the material by wrongheadedly trying to turn The Bad Seed into some kind of "invincible killer" franchise like The Omen or Godzilla.  Instead of finding something new in the material or, at the very least, having a clue as to what made The Bad Seed work in the first place, each new iteration only confirmed and solidified The Bad Seed's already high-ranking status in the canons of camp. 

I expected more of the same when I settled in to watch Kötü Tohum.

The very LAST thing I expected was to be moved to tears (!) by a sensitive, thoughtfully reimagined adaptation that remains doggedly faithful to the original (it keeps the Hollywood-mandated finale) yet strikes out on its own with an insolent daring that borders on brilliance. 
In prioritizing action over exposition, human emotion over melodrama, and narrative conflict over genre-driven shock mechanisms, Kötü Tohum is an act of (little)monster regeneration rivaling anything attempted by Dr. Frankenstein.

Alev Oraloglu as Alev Caliktas - (Rhoda Penmark)
Lale Oraloglu as Lale Celiktas - (Christine Penmark)

Ozturk Serengil as Memo - (Leroy) 
Nedret Guvenc as Nuran Seren - (Mrs. Hortense Daigle)
Levent Haskan as Cemel Seren - (Claude Daigle)

Real-life mother and daughter Lale and Alev Oraloğlu star as the Christine and Rhoda Penmark of Kötü Tohum; their performances' relaxed, easy chemistry setting this adaptation's naturalistic tone. Both actresses reprise the roles they originated in a successful 1961 theatrical run of The Bad Seed performed at Istanbul's Oraloğlu Theater (founded in 1960 by Lale Oraloğl—an esteemed actress, director, writer, & producer…with her husband, journalist Ali Oraloğlu). 

[NOTE* I'm claiming the "Old Dogs, New Tricks" rule here: The 1956 movie has been in my pop culture Rolodex for too long. For the sake of clarity (chiefly my own), I will be referring to all the characters in the remake by their names in the original movie.]

Hale Akinli as Mrs. Nevin - (Miss Fern)

As remakes go, Kötü Tohum is a perfect example of the adage: It's not the tale; it's in the telling. 
Part of the shock value of the original The Bad Seed (released when idealized images of ‘50s middle-class life flourished via TV shows like Leave It To  Beaver, Father Knows Best, and The Donna Reed Show) was rooted in the distasteful notion that a child (innocence itself) from a good home and raised with all the advantages of wealth and a good neighborhood, could ever turn out to be a coldblooded killer.  

The 1956 Bad Seed portends to be a “Nature vs. Nurture” debate, but there’s never really any doubt that the whitebread suburban ideal of Rhoda’s upbringing will prove blameless for what Rhoda has become. A verdict of “Nature” (she inherited her evil, end of story) restores conformist order and absolves the surviving characters from having to ask themselves what part their blinkered ignorance, pampered over-indulgence, and perfectionist values of achievement (“Oh, you like little girls to curtsy?”) played in fostering Rhoda’s psychopathy.

Christine's landlords are no longer Monica Breedlove and her "larvated homosexual" brother Emory. In the remake, they are (r.) Mrs. Malek (Bedia Muvahhit) and her daughter (center) Gonul (Suna Pekuysal). Both are depicted as horribly elitist snobs. 

Kötü Tohum—directed and adapted screenplay by Nevzat Pesen—retains all the pertinent aspects of The Bad Seed's plot, but in the retelling, it looks at the insulated, elitist world of the privileged classes and sees it as EXACTLY the sort of environment where narcissism is cultivated, a lack of compassion is normalized, and rabid self-interest and the casual disregard for the humanity of others could easily go unnoticed. In such surroundings, a pint-sized sociopath would call no attention to herself. 

The Seren Family: Nuran, Cemel, & Yilmaz (Muzaffer Yenen) / Claude Daigle & parents 
The most startling and noteworthy of Kötü Tohum's narrative inventions is the decision to make the traditionally unseen character of Claude Daigle a major protagonist. Written (to heartbreaking effect...they even give him an impending birthday) to be the sweetest, most compassionate character in the movie, Claude's prominence in the story has a seismic impact on every aspect of the film.     

Kötü Tohum has been very effectively opened up and spends a great deal of time showing us Rhoda's relationship with Claude—they're classroom seatmates, Claude harboring a bit of a puppy love crush on Rhoda that somewhat blinds him to her polite indifference. The film trims away a great deal of narrative fat (bye-bye to the Freudian mumbo-jumbo, windy true-crime debates, and endless mansplaining) and makes the bold choice to dramatize events that occur offscreen or are merely talked about in the original (we're shown the Penmanship Contest [Yay!] and we actually see the murders [Yikes!]).
Rhoda goes head-to-head with her nemesis, handyman Leroy. Only this time, it's no dainty tea set they're squaring off over; it's a toy train set. One whose propulsive force (that only goes in circles) is a marvelously cinematic analogy for their roundelay sparring.

The cumulative effect (and one that proves a major plus) is that Christine's emotional journey of discovery is no longer so centralized. Indeed, her big "Whose child am I?" revelation scene is introduced and dispensed with so quickly that it feels as though the director was embarrassed by the whole "My child inherited my mom's skipped-a-generation serial killer genes" gimmick.
Whatever instincts inspired Pesen's decisions in adapting the material, I must say they're exemplary. He and his talented cast have made Kötü Tohum a tighter, more cinematic, and, ultimately, for me, the most satisfying retelling of The Bad Seed.
The Bad Seed meets its match in the superb Kötü Tohum  

My gripe with most remakes is that they're so often these totally superfluous, market-driven retreads with nothing new to add. Kötü Tohum is the only remake of The Bad Seed to attempt to use the material to say something beyond the genre scope of its premise. Every scene written by Nevzat Pesen serves double duty: 1) as a critique of classism, bourgeois society, and its tendency to prioritize its needs over the concerns of others; 2) as a means of adding complexity to the characters and context to their relationships.

The Penmanship Contest
A fascinating fabrication of this remake is seeing just how the Penmanship Contest goes down. The entire class participates, and Rhoda (seated next to Claude) is as serious as a heart attack. Disaster strikes when her pencil breaks mid-test, leading her to turn wordlessly to Claude with a "Well...?" look on her face (though previously shown as aloof to his friendly overtures, it’s clear she’s not above exploiting his crush when she wants something).
Claude obliges by giving her his pencil (no “Thank you” from Rhoda), and while she resumes the contest, he sharpens the pencil and returns to his own paper. The director inserts a shot of their teacher catching sight of this act of gallantry, offering the tantalizing suggestion that Claude’s humanist values (prioritizing kindness over winning) may have also played a part in his ultimately winning the contest. 
The School Pageant
To be found in no other existing version of The Bad Seed is this marvelous school recital sequence held a few days after the Penmanship Contest. As the scene opens, Claude is shown dancing a vigorous twist onstage while Rhoda glowers at him from the wings. In the audience, the beaming Daigles sit within unfortunate earshot of Rhoda's mother and the two snobbish landladies; the latter commenting rudely on what an egregious error it was to have awarded the medal to anyone but Rhoda. 
Rhoda soon appears onstage in a meta, art-reflects-Iife number that sees a host of little girls dancing in tutus having their frolic brought to an abrupt halt by the intrusion of Rhoda brandishing a rifle (!). Understandably, the toe dancers scatter, leaving Rhoda (apparently playing a shepherd) with the stage all to herself, going solo. As she does every day in the school playground.
The Flashback
One of the principal virtues of Kötü Tohum is that it feels like a thriller made by a director who hasn't learned the clichés of the genre. As evidenced in the flashback sequence devised to accompany Rhoda's confession to her mother that she killed Claude at the picnic for the Penmanship Medal. Though an emotionally harrowing sequence, it's not written with any of the melodrama one would expect. The remake stays true to the characters' psychology, so instead of having Rhoda single-mindedly stalk Claude around the picnic grounds like Bruce the Shark in Jaws, Kötü Tohum introduces a note of tragic poignancy. It's Cladue who pursues. 
True to form, Rhoda is off to herself at the picnic, brooding while the other children play. Claude deserts his friends to check on Rhoda, who, in a repeat of her "willingness to exploit a vulnerability" behavior during the contest, informs Claude that she’s going off by herself to the lake, making sure to drop the bomb “You can come if you want to” as she departs. Poor lovestruck Claude follows, his doom truly sealed when Rhoda takes his hand in her first and only display of friendliness towards him. 
"What will you give me for a basket of kisses?"

The general mindset of American pop culture is that the darker or more hopeless something is, the more inherently "real" or true-to-life it must be. Happy endings, or conclusions where justice is meted out, are seen as pure Hollywood copouts. 
I'm unaware of 1963 Turkish cinema being bound by any of the censorship constraints of Hollywood, 1956, so the decision to retain The Bad Seed's Hollywood ending over the play's original twist (ironic, cynical) ending is perhaps surprising, but it's also consistent; Kötü Tohum is a very moral movie.
Where The Bad Seed often emphasized shock and melodrama, Kötü Tohum just broke my heart in the way it gave prominence to the pain of grief and loss. The actors in this film are first-rate.    

Indeed, Kötü Tohum's prime distinguishing trait is its humanist perspective. Through its expansion and centralizing of the Claude Daigle character (representing the virtues of decency, kindness, and compassion), I felt the film established the crucial elements of its moral universe. To end on a note of irony or "twist" for the sake of an audience gasp would feel incredibly irresponsible to me.
And how is Rhoda getting the "Leave Her to Heaven" retribution treatment any kind of a happy ending, anyway? It's only a happy ending if you forget about Claude's anguished parents, Leroy's agony, or absentee dad Mr. Penmark losing both his wife and daughter within days of one another.

He doesn't, and they don't.

I don't usually recommend the movies I write about, but if you're a fan of The Bad Seed, I would definitely recommend keeping your eyes open for a copy of this movie on YouTube or elsewhere online. I won't say you'll feel the same way as I do about it, but  I'm certain you'll find comparing the differences between the two irresistible.

All Grown Up
I don't know if the mother and daughter acting team of Lale Oraloğlu and Alev Oraloğlu ever made another film together, but they appeared in several productions at Istanbul's Oraloğlu Theater. Lale Oraloğlu, who passed away in 2007 at 82, had a long and distinguished career in virtually every facet of TV, film, and theater…in front of and behind the scenes. Kötü Tohum was Alev Oraloğlu's first leading role in a movie. Following in her mother’s footsteps, she continues to act in television, film, and theater today.

Copyright © Ken Anderson   2009 - 2023

Friday, June 16, 2023


Burt Bacharach
May 12, 1928 - February 8, 2023

I don't think it's entirely my fault that, even to this day, a part of me still thinks Cole Porter looks like Cary Grant, Frédéric Chopin is a ringer for Cornel Wilde, and Franz Liszt strongly resembles Dirk Bogarde. The Hollywood biopic tradition of assigning an outrageously glamorous face to the largely faceless profession of composer is a sound one. It aligns the artist with the art. And in a world of image, mythmaking, and marketing, it's a distinct branding advantage when an artist "looks" like the art they create (e.g., Hemingway, Warhol, Halston). So who can blame the movies for their insistence that the composers of romantic music also possess romantic looks?   

Which brings me to composer, arranger, songwriter, producer, pianist, and all-around legend, Burt Bacharach. 
As lyricist Sammy Cahn once famously remarked, Bacharach's atypically high professional visibility was owed to his being "the first composer who didn't look like a dentist" (the most visible pop composer I can remember as a kid was Henry Mancini, so, point made). Bacharach, who started his career in the '50s looking like a thick-necked college jock who'd accidentally stumbled into the music department on his way to the athletic field, looked nothing like his peers. But then his music didn't sound anything like theirs, either. 
Whether lushly romantic or go-go groovy, Bacharach's fiercely inventive musical style was all about where the world was headed, not where it had been. Bacharach's appearance, natural charisma, and virtuoso talent as a pianist (his thin, uniquely inflective voice sealed the deal) led him to an unexpected performing career. By the '70s—via concerts, albums, TV specials, and a seemingly unbroken chain of hits sung by Dionne Warwick—Burt had become a global household name and distinguished himself as the marketable face of the Burt Bacharach/Hal David songwriting team. 
Wed to glamorous movie star Angie Dickinson in 1965 (the illusion of their marriage immortalized in those iconic Martini & Rossi ads), Burt, as the tan, blow-dried, turtlenecked embodiment of California hip, came to look exactly like his music sounded: laid-back, sophisticated, sexy, and smooth.
Ken's Top 10
Casino Royale
Are You There With Another Girl?
Close To You
Walk On By
Anyone Who Had a Heart
Promises, Promises
Something Big
Message To Michael

Though I'd grown up hearing Burt Bacharach's songs on the radio for years without knowing it, my first real awareness of him was when I was ten years old and fell in love with his score for the chaotic James Bond spoof Casino Royale (1967). In all these years, it has never been surpassed as my favorite movie soundtrack album of all time. 
I've been a devoted (some might say obsessive) Burt Bacharach fan ever since. Given the many years and blissful hours I've spent surrounded by his fabulous library of songs--dancing to them, dreaming to them, crying to them;  it's not an overstatement to say the music of Bacharach/David has been the soundtrack of my youth.
Billboard Magazine -April 19, 1967
So, in keeping with the soundtrack emphasis…
Since there's already so much out there about Bacharach's radio and album hits, my cinephile tribute to the late-great Burt Bacharach--3-time Oscar-winner, six-time Grammy-winner, 1972 inductee to the Songwriters Hall of Fame, 2008 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and #32 in Rolling Stone's 2015 Top 100 Greatest Composers of All Time list—is to comprehensively highlight all the music and songs he wrote specifically for the movie screen.

What's New, Pussycat? -  1965 - Bacharach/David
Bacharach's first film score (thanks to Angie Dickinson) brought him his first Best Song Oscar nomination. Tom Jones sings "What's New, Pussycat"  to a fare-thee-well over the opening credits, but the song lost to "The Shadow of Your Smile" from The Sandpiper. I love the loony, loopy tone of this album, which bursts with musical variety. My favorite cuts are the title song, the propulsive "My Little Red Book," and the perfectly lovely romantic ballad"Here I Am." 

After The Fox - 1966 - Bacharach/David
The fox followed the pussycat with Bacharach's 2nd film score. I've always loved the deliciously silly call-response title song that has UK rock band The Hollies (when Graham Nash was still a member) interrogating Peter Sellers (in character as bumbling criminal mastermind, The Fox).
Casino Royale - 1967 - Bacharach/David
The sultry "The Look of Love" was nominated for Best Song but lost to "Talk to the Animals" from Doctor Dolittle. (WTF?) The score was Grammy nominated for Best Score, Best Instrumental Arrangement, and Best Instrumental Theme. I love EVERYTHING about this very '60s-sounding album, but my top faves are Herb Alpert's flawless rendition of the title tune,  and "Home James, Don't Spare the Horses."
Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid  -  1969 - Bacharach/David
Burt and Hal David won their first Best Song Oscar for "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head," sung by B. J. Thomas over that iconic bicycle riding scene. Burt alone won a second Oscar that night for Best Original Score. Burt's score also won the Grammy that year, and "Raindrops" was nominated (but lost) in the Best Contemporary Song & Song of the Year categories. I don't much care for this movie, but the score is a knockout, and B. J. Thomas' distinctive vocals really make "Raindrops" an unforgettable classic for me. 

Lost Horizon - 1973 - Bacharach/David
The movie responsible for busting up (temporarily, anyway) longtime collaborators Burt Bacharach and Hal David. You can read my thoughts on this famous flop favorite of mine here: Lost Horizon.

Together? (Amo Non Amo) - 1979 - Bacharach/Anka
When this Italian film was known as  Amo non Amo, it had a score by the progressive rock band Goblin. When it hit these shores with the new title Together? it acquired a new score from Bacharach and Paul Anka. Bacharach's first non-Hal David score is full of pretty melodies assigned banal, sound-alike lyrics sung by Jackie DeShannon, Libby Titus, and the ever-muffled Michael McDonald. The soundtrack album was a staple in remainder bins for years, but I don't remember the film's release at all, only seeing it for the first time while researching this tribute. Directed by a woman (Armenia Balducci), this intimate relationship drama gave Jacqueline Bisset one of her better roles. 
Arthur - 1981 - Bacharach/Sager/Cross/Allen
Bacharach won his third Academy Award for "Arthur's Theme (The Best That You Can Do)," a song written by four people, and sung by Christopher Cross over the closing credits. If this Best Song Oscar-winner and Song of the Year Grammy nominee appears elsewhere in the film, I'll never know, because when it comes to watching Arthur, one is my limit.  And perhaps it proves I'm not a full-tilt Bacharach maniac when I say this song has never done a thing for me. Its popularity baffled me even in 1981. Bacharach composed the film's instrumental score (by himself, I should add), which features a few songs co-written with Carol Bayer Sager...Bacharach wife number three (of four). 

Night Shift - 1982 - Bacharach/Sager/Ross
I'm not trying to be perverse or contrary when I say that I like everything about Bacharach's score to this negligible comedy except the song that went on to great fame as a 1985 Song of the Year Grammy nominee and the anthem of AmFAR (American Federation of AIDS research). I speak of "That's What Friends Are For," which was first heard croaked by Rod Stewart over this film's end credits. 

Arthur 2: On the Rocks - 1988 - Bacharach/Sager/De Burgh

Love Hurts  -  1990 - Bacharach
I never heard of this movie before (it was released overseas but went the straight-to-video route in the U.S.). Bacharach contributed no songs to the score, but I understand his instrumental tracks are sprinkled sparsely throughout the film.   

Isn't She Great - 2000 - Bacharach/David

A Boy Called Po - 2017 - Bacharach
His first complete film score in 17 years, Bacharach dedicated this movie about autism to his daughter Nikki, who struggled all her life with issues related to her undiagnosed autism and committed suicide in 2007 at age 41. An obvious labor of love, Bacharach donated his talents to the project, played the piano himself on the score, and even secured the licensing rights to "Close To You" for director Joseph Bauer for just $400. Bacharach also composed a song with Billy Mann, "Dancing With Your Shadow," that can be heard sung by Sheryl Crow over the closing credits.

DON'T KNOCK THE ROCK (1956) - "I Cry More" - Alan Dale
                 LIZZIE (1957) - "Warm and Tender" - Johnny Mathis

THE SAD SACK (1957) - "Sad Sack" - Jerry Lewis     
COUNTRY MUSIC HOLIDAY (1958) - "Country Music Holiday" - Bernie Nee 

THE BLOB (1958)  - "The Blob" - The Five Blobs (Bernie Knee)
JUKE BOX RHYTHM (1959) - "Make Room for the Joy" - Jack Jones
For years I watched the Steve McQueen, Helen Krump (Aneta Corsaut) sci-fi horror flick The Blob without knowing its comically ill-matched, uptempo mambo theme song was composed by Bacharach/David. An entertainingly amusing tune that perhaps takes itself no more seriously than the film it introduces.  
LOVE IN A GOLDFISH BOWL (1961) - "Love in a Goldfish Bowl" - Tommy Sands     
RING-A-DING RHYTHM (1962) - "Another Tear Falls" - Gene Daniels

FOREVER MY LOVE (1962) - "Forever My Love" - Jane Morgan
WONDERFUL TO BE YOUNG (1962) - "It's Wonderful to Be Young" - Cliff Richard

A HOUSE IS NOT A HOME (1964) - "A House is Not a Home" - Brooke Benton
SEND ME NO FLOWERS (1964) - "Send Me No Flowers" - Doris Day
Bacharach's gift for haunting melodies and talent for having his songs take delightfully unexpected turns is exemplified by these two title songs, which are huge favorites of mine. If the jaunty Doris Day tune is an ideal fit for a feather-light romantic comedy, the plaintively beautiful song Burt composed for a movie about a whorehouse is an overly-charitable grace note with a capital "G."

ALFIE (1966) - "Alfie" - Cilla Black / Cher 
Bacharach didn't write the film's score, but the Bacharach/David composition "Alfie" (sung by Cilla Black in the UK version/Cher in US releases) was nominated for Best Song... losing to the lamentable "Born Free." Bacharach always cites this as his favorite of all his songs. It's undoubtedly one of mine.

MADE IN PARIS (1966) - "Made in Paris" - Trini Lopez  
PROMISE HER ANYTHING (1966) - "Promise Her Anything" - Tom Jones
A welcome change from all those romantic ballads are these two frug-friendly title songs that fairly burst with '60s à go-go élan. It's delectable, dance-tempo ear candy from Mr. Groovy himself.  

THE APRIL FOOLS (1969) - "April Fools" - Dionne Warwick           
LONG AGO, TOMORROW (1971) - "Long Ago, Tomorrow" - B.J. Thomas
I've always loved the lilting quality of the beautiful song, "April Fools" (which plays during a montage sequence and again under the closing credits). It's one of Bacharach/David's most lushly romantic compositions. Though the score for The April Fools was composed by Marvin Hamlish, another Bacharach song- "I Say a Little Prayer for You," pops up during a party scene. 

SOMETHING BIG (1971) - "something big" - Mark Lindsay          
MIDDLE AGE CRAZY (1980) - "Where Did The Time Go" - The Pointer Sisters
Because I have no memory of ever hearing the song "something big" on the radio in 1971 (although I do recall The Goldddigers [of all people] performing it on The Dean Martin Show) I don't think it was much of a hit. But it remains one of my favorite underappreciated Bacharach compositions. It's so quintessentially Bacharach--quirky, jazzy, laid-back, and catchy as hell. 

MAKING LOVE (1982) - "Making Love" - Roberta Flack         
ROMANTIC COMEDY (1983) - "Maybe" - Roberta Flack & Peabo Bryson

TOUGH GUYS (1986) - "They Don't Make 'em Like They Used To" - Kenny Rogers    
BABY BOOM (1987) - "Ever Changing Times" - Siedah Garrett

GRACE OF MY HEART (1996) - "God Give Me Strength" -  Kristen Vigard       
STUART LITTLE (1999) - "Walking Tall" - Lyle Lovett
Bacharach's collaborations with Elvis Costello produced some of his best music in years. The impassioned "God Give Me Strength" deserved a little Oscar notice. Bacharach teamed with longtime Andrew Llyod Webber lyricist Tim  Rice (Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita) for one of my favorite late-career Bacharach melodies, a jazz-lilt theme about a little white mouse. 

ACADEMY AWARD TALLY     6 nominations /  3 Wins
What's New Pussycat (1965)     Best Song nominee 
            Alfie (1966 )                     Best Song nominee   
Casino Royale  (1967)                 Best Song nominee   
               Butch Cassidy  (1969)      WON Best Song & Best Original Score 
       Arthur (1981)                 WON    Best Song         

A song written to publicize a movie on the radio but is not in the film   
The Desperate Hours - 1955  -  Bacharach/ Wilson Stone
Song: The Desperate Hours   Sung by:  Eileen Rodgers

Hot Spell - 1958  -  Bacharach/Mack David
Song: Hot Spell       Sung by:  Margaret Whiting 
Sophia: "There’s a hurricane a-comin’!”
Dorothy: “ ‘A-comin’?” 
Sophia: “That’s right. People only use the 'a' when a really bad storm is a-comin' or a-brewin.’”

The above exchange from The Golden Girls partially explains why Miss Whiting reverts to dialect --"All that's a-comin' is a hot spell!"   -- during the refrain of this enjoyable, western-trot anthem to lustful longing. 

The Hangman - 1959  -  Bacharach/David
Song: The Hangman        Sung by:  John Ashley 

The Man in the Net - 1959 - Bacharach/David
Song:  The Net       Sung by:  John Ashley
Actor John Ashley has long been a familiar face to me from those Annette & Frankie Beach Party movies. I had no idea he had a career as a pop singer and introduced TWO (not particularly distinguished) Bacharach/David songs.
That Kind of Woman - 1959 - Bacharach/David
Song:  That Kind of Woman                Sung by: Joe Williams
Suddenly, Last Summer - 1959 - Bacharach/David
Song:  Long Ago, Last Summer      Sung by: Diane Trask

Who's Got the Action? - 1962 - Bacharach/Bob Hilliard
Song: Who's Got The Action?   Sung by: Phil Colbert

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance - 1962  - Bacharach/David
Song:  The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance   Sung by: Gene Pitney
Okay, is this catchy, Western-pop narrative tune not THE best exploitation song ever? It sparked my interest enough to get me to sit through this gunslinger soap. I was very disappointed that the song never turned up in the movie.

Wives & Lovers  - 1963 - Bacharach/David
Song:  Wives and Lovers   Sung by: Jack Jones
Bacharach's music is so good on this song that it almost makes you forget the cringingly sexist lyrics. Putting the words in a woman's mouth (as with Warwick's sublime version) softens the eye-rolling a bit, but Bacharach's full instrumental version is primo Bacharach. 

Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed? - 1963 - Bacharach/David
Song: Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed?     Sung by: Linda Scott

The Fool Killer - 1965 - Bacharach/David
Song: Fool Killer       Sung by: Gene Pitney 

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial  - 1982 - Bacharach/Neil Diamond/ Carol Bayer Sager
Song: Heartlight     Sung by: Neil Diamond 
As this was written more than a month after the Steven Spielberg film was released, it's more a tribute song than an exploitation one. But that's not how Universal Studios saw it. They sued the trio for $25,000. Something Bacharach in his 2013 memoir Anyone Who Had a Heart claimed to still irk him many years later. 

The Austin Powers trilogy of spy spoofs introduced Burt Bacharach and his music to a new generation. (Casino Royale's "Look of Love" inspired its creator Mike Myers). Bacharach made cameo appearances in each film.
Singing the 1965 song "What the World Needs Now Is Love" 

Elvis Costello sings 1969's "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" 

Singing 1965's "What the World Needs Now Is Love"

"Nikki" - 1966 - Bacharach/David
Neither an exploitation song nor a melody written exclusively for a motion picture, but as a Boomer, I'd be remiss if I failed to include this seminal '70s anthem in this comprehensive record of Bacharach's film legacy. Composed in 1966 in honor of the birth of daughter [with 2nd wife Angie Dickinson] Lea Nikki Bacharach (1966 - 2007), "Nikki" was repurposed and immortalized in 1969 when this gentle melody was given a robust orchestral arrangement and became the theme for The ABC Movie of the Week for the next five years. (A rare, off-his-game Hal David contributed some forgettable lyrics that have happily remained so.)

For all the individual achievement reflected by Burt Bacharach's fitting dominance in this tribute, I must make clear that as far as I'm concerned, there IS no Burt Bacharach without lyricist Hal David (May 25, 1921 – Sept. 1, 2012). And (in my life, at least) there would be NO Bacharach/David without Dionne Warwick. Having the opportunity to see her perform last year and hear her singing songs born of this genius trio's longtime collaboration was one of the premier experiences of my life. 

This tribute to Burt Bacharach's contribution to cinema wouldn't be possible without Serene Dominic's invaluable reference - "Burt Bacharach: Song By Song." Published in 2003, I highly recommend this informative and entertaining book to any Bacharach fans.
The Composer as Pop Star
Photographer Jim McCrary (who shot the iconic cover of Carol King's Tapestry album)
took this photo for Burt's 1971 self-titled LP for A&M Records. 

Copyright © Ken Anderson   2009 - 2023