TCM is showing several classic Lana Turner pictures today, including Peyton Place (at 3pm EST), but we wanted to call your attention to one eye-opening late period curiosity The Big Cube (1969) which will be showing at 6pm EST.
This strange Mexican financed film features cinema great Turner in one of her last roles as the victim of a plot by LSD peddling med school drop out George Chakiris (West Side Story) to get his hands on her fortune. The film is an uneasy hybrid of old school melodrama a la Peyton Place and Valley of the Dolls and new countercultural realities — yet it doesn’t seem to have a firm grasp on the new realities. Charikis’s character is internally inconsistent (he’s a bohemian dropout, but he’s also a scheming fortune hunter?) And there are just weird little touches (the hippies like to take their LSD in sugar cubes dropped into — get this — large mugs of beer) that make you wonder what planet this is taking place on.
Most of all, Chakiris and Turner’s orphaned, somehow Swiss, stepdaughter (Karin Mossberg, in her only screen role) try to make Turner go insane (or commit suicide) by freaking her out on several acid trips. These are somewhat rewarding scenes, but for the fact that the film-makers seem to have the mistaken idea that the only emotion produced on an LSD high is terror. If that were true, who on earth would anyone ever do it recreationally?
As in all such movies, the best scene is the party scene at the go-go club, featuring a dude with a target drawn on his face, and a woman who’s thing is to impersonate a large bumble bee.
The plan to help Ms. Turner regain her sanity is the most melodramatic, unrealistic and ironically way-out of all.
To find out more about the squares of old time show biz, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.