When You Get Really Close to a Movie Screen, Film Emulsion Looks like…
Boiling Sand
“Victor Mature With No Clothes On” ?!

I rented a VHS tape of ONE MILLION B.C. recently.  This is NOT the Raquel Welch movie from the 1960s; that’s ONE MILLION YEARS B.C.

This is a 1940 movie starring Victor Mature, Carole Landis and Lon Chaney Jr. (in his first role with horror make-up) with direction by Hal Roach (!) and D. W. Griffith (tho’ he didn’t get screen credit).  Primo Cinephile Esoterica!  For example, the VHS tape — when you can find it on eBay — usually goes for $50 to $100, but the Cinema Goddess was smiling upon me because the tape was in the Dollar Rental category at my neighborhood rental store.

Plenty of movie nuggets to be mined from this screening.

Being pioneering silent film directors, Hal Roach and Griffith are perfect for this film.  The dialog is basically grunts with the occasional signifying phrase thrown in.  For example, when a dinosaur approaches, cavepeople would scream “NEE-CHEE!! NEE-CHEE!!”  When the dinosaur goes away, they yell out “NEE-CHEE WA-HOOO!! NEE-CHEE WA-HOO!!”  The scene where Victor Mature is banished from his tribe of people is Pure Griffith in its ideology (the sentiments, the shame, the conflict of group versus individual), in the cogent emotions rendered and in its beautiful economy of narrative.

The dinosaurs themselves were the first of the dreadful cheap-o process of gluing prostheses on iguanas and other ugly-assed critters.  This was the main representation of “dinosaurs” after Willis O’Brien’s handcrafted work (THE LOST WORLD – 1925, KING KONG – 1933) was considered too time-consuming, and before computers could generate the likes of JURASSIC PARK.  Still, this film was nominated for 2 Oscars including Best Special Effects.  The ‘dinosaur’ footage from this film was incorporated into several other dinosaur films over the next 20+ years.

It’s great to see Carole Landis before her period as a Twentieth Century-Fox contract player, usually playing Betty Grable’s younger sister.  I had to look at her knockers a lot because they were a fixation and pleasure of authoress Jacqueline Susann (Valley of the Dolls).  Susann appeared with Landis in the Broadway show, THE LADY SAYS YES, where Landis became the object of one of Susann’s many Lesbian fantasies.  (Another one was Ethel Merman.)  Jackie Susann loved to bury her head in Landis’s cleavage and was deeply moved by her suicide.  She modeled the Valley of the Dolls character, Jennifer North, on Landis.  [To know more about these aspects of Susann, I heartily recommend the excellent post-feminist biography of her entitled Lovely Me by Barbara Seaman.]

While working for Hal Roach, Carole Landis made some interesting films with John Hubbard (who plays Landis’ suitor from the Shell People in this movie, while Mature is the Rock People suitor).  Hubbard and Landis played the husband and wife who wake up one morning living in each others’ bodies in the totally twonky gender-bender comedy, TURNABOUT.  And they were paired again in the cool-yet-totally-underappreciated ROAD SHOW (wickedly great until the last 15 minutes, when it disintegrates into one of those wacky chase sequences).  ROAD SHOW also features meta-dyke Patsy Kelly wearing plaid shirts and Calamity Jane drag.

ONE MILLION B.C. compares and contrasts two prehistoric tribes:  the Rock People and the Shell People.  The Shell People are mainly vegetarian, hug each other, and make jewelry.  The Rock People are guarded, rudimentary and 100% meat-eaters.  When Victor Mature (one of the Rock People) takes Carole Landis (one of the Shell People) back home to meet the folks, it brings back memories of my relocation 15 years ago from San Francisco to Central Texas.  For some reason the Shell People guys aren’t bare-chested, while the Rock dudes are.  (May explain why I’m back in Texas after a 10-year hiatus…)  So Victor Mature is bare-chested in a lot of this movie.

Which brings me to the title of this post…

As a twenty-year-old stenographer, my mom went to see this movie and it evidently made quite a deep impression.  The imagery of Mature climbing trees and eating food with his hands struck some primal note.  For the rest of her life, anyone who appeared to be a Free Spirit was described by her as “Victor Mature with no clothes on.”  Any bearded hitchhiker or sandal-wearing guitar player was “like Victure Mature with no clothes on.”  When I was a consciousness-junkie in the 1980s (going through nude encounter groups, post-Reichian therapy, and Radical Faerie Gatherings) I would fumble for words as to what I was doing with my weekends when my mother would ask.  This left her confused until it would hit her that I was “acting like Victor Mature with no clothes on.”  When neighbors would ask her what I was up to, she’d reply “Doug is acting like Victor Mature with no clothes on this weekend” which added to the confusing and already salty reputation I had.

Although my mom’s been gone for years, the legacy continues.  Whenever I go away to a friend’s mountain lodge or attend Midwest Men’s Festival, I always write in my Day-Runner “Acting like Victor Mature with no clothes on thru the 24th.”

Doug of PostModernJoan

Victor Mature "with no clothes on" ...

Victor Mature with no clothes on ...

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