Justin O'Connell 4:30 p.m., Jan. 24
Double Features From Hell: The Warrior and the Slave Girl and Louis Prima?!
This ad from the November 5, 1959 edition of The Modesto Bee reminds me just how much I miss the dartboard booking practices of drive-ins and grindhouses. The closest I ever came to a double feature of this magnitude was when mom and dad took me to the Sunset Drive-In to catch Jerry Lewis' The Nutty Professor paired with Sergio Leone's The Colossus of Rhodes.
What with Julius Kelp's shocking (to an 8-year-old) transformation into Buddy Love coupled with the hollow-eyed horror of Sergio's statue, lily-liver little Scotty didn't get much sleep for weeks to come.
In this case, the only commonality is that all parties involved are Italian, something I'm sure was intentional on the part of the guy who programmed The Strand Theatre. The Warrior and the Slave Girl is an early "sword and sandals" import made to cash in on the success of Pietro Francisci's Hercules, starring Steve Reeves (aka Mr. Universe of 1950).
Hey Boy, Hey Girl is Columbia Pictures' stab at transforming a popular husband and wife recording team into movie stars. It was the only film to star wild man Prima and his imperturbable bride, Keeley Smith.
Prima in his prime.
Louis Prima was the barometer of hip, the swinginist cat ever to take to the bandstand. He began his career as a trumpeter playing with a New Orleans style jazz band in the '20s. By the time the '50's rolled around, Prima, along with Smith and Sam Butera -- leader of the equally energetic, The Witnesses, the band that backed the couple on stage and records -- were tearing up the lounge of The Sahara in Vegas. Before long, the act was moved into the main showroom where Louis and Keeley reigned supreme as Vegas' premiere power couple.
Hey Boy, Hey Girl was produced at the height of their popularity. Directed by hack helmsman David Lowell Rich (Have Rocket -- Will Travel, The Concorde... Airport '79, Chu Chu and the Philly Flash), HBHG is your standard '50's grade-Z attempt at filling the bottom-half of a double-bill, but it does afford viewers a rare filmed glimpse of Louis, Keeley, and Sam making merry. Both films are unavailable on DVD, but HBHG has been known to crop up on Turner Classic Movies where it first caught my attention.
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