You may already be familiar with Arch Hall Jr., the
crooning, baby-faced young star of such ultra-low budget
teen films as Eegah and Wild Guitar. Fans
of cult cinema relish his unpolished delivery, plaintive
singing and Kookie-like blonde coif. But many are genuinely
disturbed by one career detour Arch chose to take, 1963's
Over the span of roughly three years, Arch and his dad,
Arch Sr., mounted an all-out -- if poorly bankrolled --
assault on the drive-in market. Producing the films under
his own Fairway Productions banner, Hall Sr., a one-time
B-movie cowboy, often wrote, directed or co-starred in
his son's vehicles under various pseudonyms. (The Army-life
exploits of Hall and a buddy were the topic of the film
comedy The Last Time I Saw Archie, directed by
Jack Webb. Robert Mitchum played Hall. Hall later sued).
Evidently the objective was to mold Arch Jr. into a bankable
singing heartthrob along the lines of Ricky Nelson, Frankie
Avalon or Fabian. Hall and his combo were, in fact, gigging
regularly around the L.A. area. But as Wild Guitar
director Ray Dennis Steckler (aka Cash Flagg) speculated
years later, Arch Jr.'s desire to become an airplane pilot
eventually superseded his show biz career.
Wild Guitar (1962) is an exemplary Hall film.
Arch Jr. plays humble, homespun Bud Eagle, a singer-guitarist
from the Midwest who rumbles into L.A. on the back of
a motorbike, hoping to take tinsel town by storm with
his twangin' take on the twist beat that all the kids
are crazy about. At a local diner, he hits it off with
go-go dancer Nancy Czar who steers him onto a TV talent
show. His passionate crooning and ingratiating shyness
make him an overnight success.
In no time, Bud finds himself under contract to an unscrupulous
handler played by Arch Sr. Though seduced by the rewards
of heartthrobdom, Bud eventually sees his parasitic mentor
for what he is and makes plans to extricate himself from
the situation. This leads to a spirited fistfight with
Sr.'s hechman played by director Steckler. The film finishes
with a must-see, teen-party show stopper; Arch Jr., decked
out in a white dinner jacket, strolling the beach, belting
out Twist Fever for Nancy and their adoring fans.
Segue to The Sadist.
stayed behind the scenes, and Steckler was supplanted
by James Landis. No songs. No jokes. Our guitar-pickin'
teen dream is transformed into a demented killer with
absolutely no redeeming qualities. Turns out Arch Jr.
is very good at being very bad.
It begins with three high school teachers traveling
to L.A. for a Dodger game. Helen Hovey, cast as one of
the educators, was Hall Sr.'s niece in real life (The
script calls for Arch Jr. to become rather aggressive
with his real-life cousin, ogling her and breathing heavily
-- Yuck). Car trouble forces the trio to seek help in
an apparently abandoned service station/junk yard where
they're stalked by psycho-on-the-run Arch and his slow-witted
gal pal, Marilyn Manning, the one-time object of Eegah's
Hall is truly frightening, especially to purveyors of
his earlier films who could never imagine the crooning,
cuddly kid as a relentless killer. His performance may
be one note, but it's a sustained, harrowing note. Restraint
is entirely omitted from Hall's acting vocabulary. Imagine
Jerry Mathers as Charlie Starkweather.
Unfortunately, Arch Jr. is probably remembered best
for Eegah, an untenably protracted and threadbare
fright film featuring Richard Kiel as Marilyn Mannings'
prehistoric paramour. Its meager highlights include a
handful of rockin' numbers by Arch and his Archers including
a reprise of Vicky from Wild Guitar.
Hall Jr. curtailed
his film and musical endeavors to pursue a career
as a pilot. He only recently retired
after 23 years as a commercial flier with Flying Tigers
and Fed Ex. Fortunately, just prior to takeoff, he left
us a modest trove of cult classics. A pair of them are
cited below. Either of them, shown back-to-back with The
Sadist, makes for a mind-blowing, schizophrenic double-bill.