Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Dimension 5, Logic 0

The review below is my modest contribution to The Camp & Cult Blogathon, hosted by the fabulous Stacia of She Blogged By Night.  And in the event someone unfamiliar with our methods happens to wander by, I should point that it's nothin' but spoilers from here on out.
Dimension 5 (1966)
Directed by Franklin Adreon.
Written by Arthur C. Pierce.

Our story opens somewhere in Europe, where Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, driven by fading heartthrob Jeffrey Hunter, is being chased by a Jeep full of trigger-happy “Policia Militar.”  Things look bad for our hero, but at the last instant he foils his pursuers by abruptly leaving Europe at the first exit and pulling into Bronson Canyon.

Suddenly, a helicopter appears, just like that scene in From Russia With Love, except in this case it’s just Channel 9’s traffic chopper which happened to pass overhead while the bored Second Unit was trying to shoot footage of a raccoon eating a pinecone.  Undaunted, Secret Agent Double-O Jeff lustily smooches the busty brunette in the passenger seat, then coldcocks her with a brutal backhand, presumably because she had garlic for lunch.

He takes off running and the Policia start to give chase; then suddenly realize that if they just shoot Jeff dead, the director will probably call Lunch.  But Jeff puts a ring on his finger and vanishes!  So our hero has cool spy gadgets just like James Bond, the only difference being that 007’s are built by Q Branch, while Jeff’s equipment is supplied by tricksy Hobbits.

Cut to stock footage of Pan Am jets taking off from Los Angeles International Airport, pulling up their landing gear, then lowering their gear and landing at Los Angeles International Airport.  The implied seat belt and oxygen mask safety demonstration is the most breathtaking action sequence so far.

Jeff’s stunt double climbs into the traffic chopper and takes a scenic tour of Inglewood.  If you were planning to make some microwave popcorn or heat up a Hot Pocket, this might be a good time.

Ah, I see the helicopter has finally landed – on LA’s ugliest skyscraper, the California Federal building.  Inside, Agent Double-Naught Jeff meets his boss, Cane, who apparently took his character’s name as a stage direction, since he affects an exaggerated limp and uses a cane.

Cane runs a private intelligence agency called “Espionage, Incorporated.”  Originally he’d planned on hiring someone to devise a less obvious brand name, but he wound up spending the money on a fancy espresso machine for the break room.  He also apparently can’t afford an office, since he and Jeff deliver all their exposition in the elevator (although, judging by the top of the frame he does own a boom mic, and it’s a very gifted photo-bomber).

Anyway, it turns out Jeff’s gadget isn’t a magic ring after all, but a “time converter,” and he must use it to foil “the Dragons,” who are planning to destroy Los Angeles unless “all Allied forces get out of Southeast Asia.”

So, our choices are:  1.) Get out of Vietnam two years before the Tet Offensive, or 2.) Watch another 79 minutes of this movie.  I kinda gotta go with the Dragons on this one.

Cane’s organization has captured a Dragon, and is bringing him to LA for interrogation (pro-tip: if you work for an international organization of supervillains, and someone knocks on your door and says, “Espionage, Incorporated” -- pretend you’re not home.  Chances are, it’s either a counter-spy or a land-shark).  Cane is also giving Jeff a sexy young partner, because we’re 14 minutes into the movie and our hero (whose name is “Justin Power” – did I mention that yet?) hasn’t boned anyone.  Hard to believe for a Sixties spy film, but so far it’s all been elevators, promotional consideration provided by Pan Am, and exposition delivered by the Minister of Silly Walks.  But things potentially heat up when Jeff asks Cane to run away with him to a South Sea paradise.

Cut to Manilla.  By which I mean, splice in more footage of Pan Am jets landing at LAX, then cut to an empty terminal at Burbank Airport, where Sam from Quincy is waiting to board a flight to LA with the Dragon agent, which is confusing, since his flight just landed at LA, so who knows where the hell his luggage is.  Meanwhile, as Sam watches the Dragon, France Nuyen (whom MST3K fans will remember as the disinterested love interest from the failed TV pilot Code Name: Diamond Head), watches Sam.  Suddenly, a middle aged Asian man appears and threatens to blow up his briefcase unless Sam and the Dragon each swallow a pink capsule, which will either 1.) kill them, 2.) expand their minds, because no one can be told what the Matrix is, or 3.) relieve sniffling, sneezing, and watery eyes for up to 12 hours.  But France effortlessly kills the terrorist with her ballpoint pen, then goes back to making out her grocery list, because she’s a badass.

Back at Espionage, Inc., resident egghead “The Professor” subjects the Dragon agent to a lie-detecting beauty salon hair dryer, while Jeff asks Sam if he’d like to run away with him to a South Sea paradise.  Meanwhile, the torture thing really pays off: the agent reveals that Dragon has brought a hydrogen bomb into LA.  But it’s in pieces, some assembly is required, and since the H-bomb only came with those confusing diagrams you get from IKEA, it won’t be completed until Christmas Day.  Unfortunately, even though Cane turns the hair dryer up to 11, the agent doesn’t know what kind of delivery system they’ll use (ship, aircraft, missile), but given the timing of the attack it seems obvious the bomb will be delivered by Santa.
"Let's have a lip-pursing contest.  Go!"

Jeff goes home to meet his new partner, and we see that like most secret agents, he lives in a spacious, split-level rambler in a modest suburban housing tract.  Also, his mailbox contains a huge closed circuit TV camera, which is cool, but probably makes it tough at the end of the month for the mailman to cram in the utility bills and the Pennysaver.

Jeff is surprised to discover that his partner is France – a girl! -- and that she’s moved in and strewn her feminine products all over his guest bathroom.  Also, she’s half-naked and refuses to put pants on, telling him to “check my I.D.”  Then she slowly pulls up the hem of her crotch-length sweater.  I can only assume there was a jump cut, and she actually told him to “check my I.U.D.”

After he fingerprints her vagina, Jeff takes her to a chop suey house in Chinatown, because “I figured you were homesick.”  But then he orders steak and mashed potatoes, so instead of an after dinner mint, the proprietor hands him a time-bomb.  His Pontiac Catalina blows up, but Jeff cheats death by suddenly stopping at a liquor store to buy cigarettes in a weirdly hesitant manner (“Oh!  Yeah, gimme a package of…those.  Uh!  On second thought…gimme the whole carton!), even though he never smokes in the film (maybe they were candy cigarettes; I know they made me feel extremely suave in 1966 – at least when I wasn’t wetting the bed).

France is clearly the smartest person in the film (she escapes the explosion by the clever tactic of climbing out of the car for no apparent reason) and quickly deduces that the Chinese hostess at the chop suey restaurant planted the bomb.  Jeff snaps into action and goes to the girl’s apartment; but just because he's demanding to know why she tried to kill him, that's no reason not to guzzle every glass of mysterious liquid she hands him.  Then he tries to torture the information out of her by twisting her arm behind her back, but she wriggles around and Jeff has such a hard time holding on to her that it looks less like a brutal interrogation and more like someone trying to put a snowsuit on a three-year old.  In fact, our hero gets so flustered that he doesn’t notice she’s pressing a stiletto to the back of his neck and is about to pierce his cerebellum.  Fortunately (for him -- it’s a bit of a blow for us), France suddenly appears and kills the Dragon lady with her ballpoint pen, then resumes her journaling (“Dear Diary: You won’t believe what a useless puckerhole they partnered me with…").

The Dragons capture our hero, and France waits patiently around for Jeff to do something, which he finally does – he gets tied up – but that’s not good enough for her (Women!  What do they want?), so she secretly alerts headquarters to their predicament, karate-chops all the bad guys, then wearily cuts Jeff loose.

“You don’t mind if I’m a little confused,” he says, attempting to recover his dignity.  “About which side of the fence you’re prowling on?”

 “There’s only one side,” she sighs, then saunters out of the room, leaving him sitting there with his metaphorical dick in his hand.  The only thing that could possibly make her seem like more of a badass would be if she was walking in slo-mo, while the whole building exploded behind her.
Jeff puts on a red and white sweater set that looks like something Andy Williams would wear for a  mid-Sixties Christmas special, and decides to thwart the Dragons’ scheme by jumping into the future to meet a freighter bringing toys from Japan. I’m not sure how that’s going to help, since the bomb components are already in Los Angeles, but I assume Jeff is misusing government resources to make sure he gets that Special Edition Beanie Baby he wants for Christmas.

Cut to Oddjob from Goldfinger, who is sitting topless in a wheelchair, covered in corn oil and verbally abusing his minions with Boris Badenov’s voice. Cut back to Jeff – who I’m actually glad to see for once – who has broken into Oddjob’s warehouse of the FUTURE!  He wanders around, determined to find that Beanie Baby, while France rolls up her sleeves and locates the H-bomb.  I’m sure glad she’s doing the same job he is, for only 50% less money, and 100% less pants.

Suddenly, Oddjob appears, brandishing a pistol and Paul Frees’ larynx.  Jeff and France activate their “time converters” and leap 30 seconds into the future, precious time that France uses to disarm Oddjob and Jeff uses to cower behind some barrels.  So, it seems our plucky, pantless heroine has saved the day!  Unfortunately, screenwriter Arthur C. Pierce has loaded her down with about a page and a half of lachrymose back story, and by the time she’s finished delivering it, Oddjob’s henchmen have gathered round like they're all having some sort of group therapy session.

Finally, Jeff has a chance to save France for once!  But then he spots a Buffalo nickel, and by the time he manages to pick it up (it wasn't easy, there was a little gum stuck to the bottom) Oddjob and a henchman who resembles the Poor Man’s Tor Johnson have escaped with an unconscious France.  (She wasn’t knocked out or anything, I think she just happened to glance at her watch, realized the movie still had 11 minutes to go, and bit down on that cyanide capsule in her hollow tooth.)

Jeff follows them back to Oddjob’s apartment, and promptly gets his ass kicked by Poor Tor.  (You remember that scene in Blazing Saddles, where the overwrought chorus boy bangs his fists on the cowboy’s chest, screaming, “you brute, you brute, you brute!”?  That’s pretty much the fight choreography here.)

Naturally, France, who is bound and gagged, still manages to get one of the villain’s guns and toss it to Jeff, who shoots his unarmed opponent point blank in the face, because he’s a hero.  But then Oddjob somehow gets the drop on Jeff with his own gun, and things look grim; Jeff and France will be shot, and Los Angeles vaporized by an H-bomb.  Fortunately, the producers can’t afford to show that, so a nameless Chinese extra wanders into the shot and abruptly stabs Oddjob in the cerebellum (apparently that’s a thing in China).  And even though he’s been using a wheelchair throughout the movie, Oddjob jumps to his feet and suddenly it’s Heidi (“Grandfather!  I can walk!”), then he drops dead.

The world is saved!  Jeff tries to kiss France, but she uses her time-converter to quantum leap six months into the future, when this piece of crap is already playing the bottom third of drive-in triple features, and she’s moved on to a series of guest starring roles on I Spy, where she doesn’t have to hand-hold Robert Culp and Bill Cosby through every frigging assignment.

So…What have we learned from Dimension 5?  Well, we’ve learned that while Jeffrey Hunter wasn’t the worst actor in Hollywood (after all, John Agar was still alive), this really isn’t his best work; if I had to choose, I much prefer his performance as Captain Christopher Pike in the first, failed pilot for Star Trek, especially the part where he was paralyzed, mute, and played by another actor.

We’ve learned that France Nuyen could beat Oddjob with both hands tied behind her back.  And we’ve learned – or at least had our suspicions confirmed by the Internet -- that Jeff’s character name, “Justin Power” was the inspiration for “Austin Powers” (which becomes obvious every time Jeff walks through Espionage, Inc. and the all-girl staff coos in unison, “Hel-lo, Mr. Power.”

Oh, and always carry your I.D. in your vagina.  It’ll come in handy if you’re ever challenged by counter-intelligence agents, or the Pennsylvania Board of Elections.


Carl said...

Hey, you know? Traffic on the 405 can be murder, so can you blame someone for taking a 747 from LAX to Burbank?

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

And I thought you were kidding.

Shichils said...

For my fellow Trek nerds, France Nuyen was also in a Trek episode, playing Elaan of Troyius.

Ivan G Shreve Jr said...

A pantsless France Nuyen? Oh, I am so there...

Hard to believe for a Sixties spy film, but so far it’s all been elevators, promotional consideration provided by Pan Am, and exposition delivered by the Minister of Silly Walks.

Scott uses the Python reference for the win!

Ivan G Shreve Jr said...

I didn't see the credit at the beginning, but apparently this little opus was directed by Franklin Adreon, which would explain its unabashed goofiness. Adreon served as associate producer (because he was the only one who would associate with the producer) on Republic Studios' serials beginning in 1948 (he was previously a scribe at the company, penning chapter play favorites like The Fighting Devil Dogs and Drums of Fu Manchu). He eventually worked his way up to the director's chair, helming Republic last gasps as Canadian Mounties vs. Atomic Invaders and the ever-popular Panther Girl of the Kongo.

(And yes, he was the associate producer on MST3K fave Radar Men from the Moon.)

Scott said...

Thanks, Ivan. I'd never heard of Adreon before -- although I was somewhat familiar with screenwriter Arthur C. Pierce, for whom 1966 was a remarkably productive year. In addition to Dimension 5 he also wrote and/or directed Cyborg 2087, Destination Inner Space, The Navy vs. the Night Monsters, the Matt Helm ripoff The Destructors (shot in 1966, though not released until '68), The Last Vegas Hillbillies, and Women of the Prehistoric Planet, with the very drunk Wendell Corey, which MST3K fans will remember from Season 1 -- although Artie is probably best known to devotees of the show for his script to 1965's Human Duplicators with Richard Kiel and George Nader.

Mr. Pierce wrote one more feature film, The Astral Factor in 1976, then penned three episodes of the TV series The Next Step Beyond in 1978, before finishing his career with a story credit with a 1983 episode of Fantasy Island. He finally took the Next Step Beyond in 1987.

Carl said...

If Arthur C Pierce was writing today, he'd be writing those SyFy rip offs of popular releases like The Agengers and Hairy Pawter

Stacia said...

Jeff puts on a red and white sweater set that looks like something Andy Williams would wear for a mid-Sixties Christmas special

Yeah, and now you feel BAD for making that joke, dontcha?

You said Madam Satan scared you but after this, I can't imagine HOW. What a screaming hairy mess this movie looks like. It's telling that the only films of Adreon's I've heard of are the MST3K ones; usually, I'm defending people who end up on MST3K as not completely deserving it, but I don't think old Franklin is going to get that kind of treatment.

Not that I don't love a movie where everyone gets tied up and people forget to wear pants, but those movies usually are more exciting than this one appears to be.

This is a terrific post, thanks for contributing to the 'thon!

Scott said...

Yeah, and now you feel BAD for making that joke, dontcha?

Ohhh, do I ever. This is how things went the morning after I posted this:

MARY: Hey, Andy Williams died.

ME: What? Oh, great. I just made a joke about him in the review I posted last night.

MARY: Well, the article didn't list "cause of death" as "blog post," so I think you can relax.

You said Madam Satan scared you but after this, I can't imagine HOW.

Well, Dimension 5 was boring as hell, giving me the means, motive, and opportunity to just shut it off, which I had to do several times. But I'm afraid Madam Satan will suck me in, and it'll be like that snotty "Control Voice" on Outer Limits: SHE would control the TV. (Plus, as I mentioned on SBBN, I have a crush on Lillian Roth.)

But thanks for hosting the Camp & Cult fest, Stacia. This contribution represented by Blogathon defloration.

Anonymous said...

If every actor played Star Trek paralyzed, mute, and not present, what a wonderful world it would be.

Kathy said...

Elaan of Troyius was my favorite Star Trek lady, I loved the way she threw objects around her quarters.Tho Spock's betrothed was a close runner-up. In favor of T'Pring (?) she at least didn't succumb to Kirk's inexplicable "charm", even tho she picked him as her "hero". Elaan fell for Kirk and then ditched him for a blue guy. Good choice.

Keith said...

Kirk & McCoy on the entrance of Elaan of Troyius:

"Bones, what's she wearing?"

"It's tulle, Jim. But not as we know it!"