Charles Locher was among the
busiest B film bit players in Hollywood. He debuted
in a movie called Women Must Dress (1935), followed
that same year by a red herring walk-on in Charlie
Chan in Shanghai. Mysterious Avenger and The
Clutching Hand were among many to follow. Beginning
with a plum part in John Ford's The Hurricane,
Locher, alias Lloyd Crane, found a niche. The role of
Terangi, a South Sea islander, propelled the actor along
an enjoyable rut of quasi-Polynesian parts that secured
his place as one of B filmdom's most visable faces.
Around this time, he chose the
nom de celluloid Jon Hall, and stuck with it. His pseudo-Samoan
good looks helped Hall nab a fistful of sarong-wearing
roles. As an island stud or half-caste boat skipper,
he rose to substantial second-string fame opposite luscious
Maria Montez, the Dominican siren then making money
hand-over-fist for Universal. As fans of film history
know, anyone with an accent can pass as a member of
any ethnic group as far as Hollywood is concerned. This
lent credibility to Montez' appearances opposite Hall
in camp classics like Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves,
Arabian Nights, and, most notably, Cobra Woman.
The teaming was B film magic. Hall was a bonafide matinee
idol. He married and divorced both radio singing star
Frances Langford, and exotic Duck Soup leading
lady Raquel Torres. The tiki film trend crested in the
mid-40s and Hall aged gracefully into other roles.
1952, Hall could slip easily into the part of Dr. Tom
Reynolds, better known to low-grade filmgoers as Ramar
of the Jungle, a character he assayed through five
threadbare films. Soon after, Hall said farewell to
filmdom for several years.
This otherwise impressive B movie
track record pales beside the single film for which
Hall should be enshrined in the schlock flick hall of
fame. In 1964, he directed and starred in The Beach
Girls and the Monster, aka Monster From the Surf.
This one has every ingredient a B budget connoisseur
could hope for. Shimmying go-go girls, a fireside folk
hootenanny, a philandering, money-grubbing, man-hungry
wife, a rubbery looking monster in an ill-fitting suit
and surfing. Lots of surfing. Endless footage of surfing.
All accompanied by the same echo-laden, "Pipeline"-esque
guitar track. It's cool the first 27 times you hear
Most memorably, the film boasts
original songs by Frank Sinatra Jr., though exactly
what part of the surf-drenched score he composed is
a mystery. Sinatra himself is not heard. In fact, the
'title' tune, Monster from the Surf, is sung
by a puppet ('He tries to drive a woody, but he ain't
no goody. Yeah, yeah, yeah').
Hall plays a marine biologist
who'll stop at nothing to ensure that his son follows
in pop's watery footsteps. Donning a shredded, makeshift
monster suit, he's driven to murdering a wiggling nymphette
or two. By film's end he is mortally wounded, leading
the fuzz on a prolonged car chase along the cliffs that
snake about the California coast. At this point, a cop
shouts repeatedly into his walkie-talkie to be on the
lookout for a 'white MG!' Cut to stock footage of a
vintage black sedan caroming down the cliff side, carrying
our erstwhile surf monster to his death.
Hall wasn't the only bench-warming
thespian to try his hand at exploiting the teen drive-in
market. You may be surprised at the likes of those tempted
from retirement to test the teen beat. Sample some of
these less-than-respectable additions to the resume's
of aging screen stalwarts.
Flesh Feast (1968)
The slinky pulchritude
of Veronica Lake catapulted her to unparalleled stardom
in the early-40s. 25 years later, she's a biochemist
breeding flesh-eating maggots. To avenge the Nazi war
atrocities exacted upon her kin, she lures der furher
himself to her Florida sanctuary.
lead Robert Hutton popped up in a string of low-rent
horror flicks in the late-50s and early-60s, Man
Without a Body and The Vulture among them.
Here, he directs and stars in a fog-bound caper detailing
a subterranean invasion of dripping algae monsters.
The budget-concealing fog aids the game cast greatly.