Okay, so she may well known for being Ringo Starr's wife, but a recent conversation about The Spy Who Loved Me reminded me what a hot property Barbara Bach was, especially in the late 70s. And then a little digging around revealed that, after Bond, she made the wise career movie of heading out to Italy and starring in a string of low budget B-grade adventure movies, mostly with fairly fishy themes.
Which brings me on to tonight's films. Big Alligator River and Island of the Fishmen were both shot by Sergio Martino in 1979, and both starred Barbara Bach (and share a lot of other actors) plus, as it turns out, they seemed to share a lot of locations too.
Yes, as Rawshark would have you say, they must have been shot '”Bach to Bach!” Sorry about that.
This Zombie Club Presentation is bought to you by Jim in association with the Poor Man's Stacy Keach Society and the Bond Girls who don't take their tops off Collective.
Big Alligator River (1979)
Plot It's like Jaws, but with alligators, and the beach is a theme park.
Jim In Big Alligator River Claudio Cassinnelli plays a photographer hired to take some publicity photos at Mel Ferrer's bizarre jungle holiday resort. He turns up in a helicopter ("He so looks like Stacy Keach..." - Zomblee) with a couple of models, one of which is Barbara Bach ("Models in movies are always good." - Rawshark). He then proceeds to take a few pictures, try and chat Barbara Bach up a couple of times and meet Romano Puppo ("Hello, I'm Trash's dad!" - Zomblee), before he starts to notice some strange goings on with the local natives. First off they seem to worship big alligator skulls, secondly they like to wear big stick-on paper teeth, and thirdly they tend to get really freaked by big logs floating in the river. Hmmm.
So yeah, before you can say "close the beach!" it all goes very run-of-the-mill eco-horror, except with added natives, and Cassinnelli spends the rest of the movie dodging spears and nasty pointy big teeth while trying to save Barbara Bach from all kinds of peril. Thing is, despite loads of fun spotting well known Italian actors of the time, numerous comedy death by big croc scenes, a surprising cameo by Richard Johnson ("He looks like Tim from Holy Grail" - Zomblee) and a daft alligator vs. Volkswagon van bit at the end, a lot of the movie is quite dull. Unless, of course, you like watching the antics of horny old people or Trash's dad trying to pull native chicks. And I still don't know why they thought Alex was such a shit.
"Alex is a shit."
Zomblee Yeah, fair enough Jim, but when you've got Dr Menard himself, Richard Johnson, looking like the Scotch nutter in The Holy Grail, frankly my dear, I don't river damn. I couldn't get over how un-Menard he looked here and trust me readers, it's a sight to behold. And you know what he's called, this seer-type figure who sits atop a mountain? He's called Father Johnathan. That's right, Father Johnathan. Pretty mystical, eh? Just like Tim.
So, Romano Puppo. He's Trash's dad in our beloved Bronx Warriors. But let me tell you a little more about him. This man is a legend, and has featured in SO many celluloid stinkers from pastaland, as well as genuine classics - check it out: 2019: After the Fall of New York, The Last Shark, Fulci's Contraband, The Heroin Busters, The Big Racket, Street Law, and, last but by no means least, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Did all right for himself didn't he? Sadly, he was killed in a car crash in 1994, but what a great legacy to leave behind!
Barbara Bach has a nice behind, but we didn't get to see much of it as she of her alarming tendency to keep her clothes on, thereby leaving her 'not for public viewing' particulars for Ringo's pleasure. Barbara Bach's surname was a feeding ground for Rawshark's pun-orientated humour tonight; at one point asking, "So, we watching these movies Bach to Bach tonight then?" Sadly, such sharp wit was mostly lost on myself and Jim, who were probably concentrating on that big alligator in the water, which turned out to be a big log ("Is that the captain's log?" - Rawshark).
Captain's floating logs aside, this is a pretty dire offering from the once great Sergio Martino, though he of course did come back with a stab of brilliance with the aforementioned 2019, shameless as it is, but that's part of the fun I guess. Still, even though he didn't convince Bach to get in the nude, there's loads of breasts in this flick, but as they belong to native women, we decided (after some discussion) that they don't officially count. Hopefully Barbara will learn how to unfasten her bra before the next movie.
"You just want to touch my mum's tits!"
Rawshark So, in Big Alligator River we have a new holiday resort constructed deep in the heart of Big Alligator country, a fashion photographer and his two young models flying in for a photo shoot, the ‘inaugural’ guests arriving for the resort’s first week, and a host of restless natives who are scared of big logs in the river. Nope, nothing can go wrong here surely.
Oh, but of course it does. When Sheena, one of the models, decides to paddle off to the “Island of Love” with one of the natives, the couple come under attack from a beast of a crocodile, prompting much use of red dye in the river. Daniel, the fashion photographer, is alarmed at Sheena’s disappearance, but unfortunately no one takes any notice of him, until the resort’s owner finds out that the ”helicopter has been dragged into the river”, and that’s when the shit really hits the rotor blades. The natives were right to have feared the Big Bad God of the river after all, even if it turned out to be a crocodile rather than the alligator the title suggested.
Yes, it’s cheesy and not really great filmmaking, but Big Alligator River is fun in a ‘spot the connections with Jaws eco-horror set-up' kinda way. There’s lots of native breasts (hey, I count them!), but unfortunately no nudity shots of Barbara Bach, which disappointed Zomblee no end, and left him shouting ”Where’s your bra-bara?” at the TV screen.
Zomblee did, however, like ”Tarzan’s raft”, a sort of River Cruise Party Boat that comes under attack when, wouldn’t you know it, the resort’s guest are partying hard one evening. Jim really liked ”the paper teeth native”, and was especially pleased when he made a second appearance as both Zomblee and myself had missed him the first time. ”See, look! The paper teeth native!” he shouted excitedly. Big Alligator River - something for everyone.
”Do you fancy coupling with me?”
Director Sergio Martino
Cast Barbara Bach
Lory Del Santo
Runtime A healthy 86 minutes
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Island of the Fishmen (1979)
Plot A bit like Island of Dr Moreau, except with a clean-shaven Johnson and muchos Fishmen.
Rawshark Made directly before Big Alligator River, Sergio Martino’s Island of the Fishmen is a period piece set in 1891 that also features Barbara Bach, Claudio Cassinelli, Richard Johnson, and was also scripted by EMB fave and b-movie big ape, George Eastman.
Here, a group of prisoners and a doctor are shipwrecked and wash up on shore on a seemingly deserted island. Except it’s not really deserted as they soon run into Richard Johnson and Barbara Bach and their school of ‘fishmen’ (not ‘fishermen’ as I thought at first). It turns out that Barbara Bach is the fishmen’s queen as she has a psychic link to the amphibious creatures, whilst Johnson is just a dastardly scientist out to use the fishmen to ransack the treasures of the nearby lost city of Atlantis (prompting Zomblee to raise the question ”Where’s Doug McClure?” during the obligatory ‘diving bell’ scene).
Trashy and silly it may be, but it’s also an enjoyable cult ride filled with horror trivia (did you know it was filmed the same time as Zombie Flesh Eaters and uses the same locations, as well as Richard Johnson wearing the same costume!), dodgy monsters and even dodgier miniatures. Still no nudity from the great Bach unfortunately, but she does take a moonlight swim with the fishmen at one point in a thin white dress, so that kind of makes up for it.
”You have put a curse of death upon us!”
Zomblee Did she really take a midnight swim with a fishman? Sheesh. Good old Barbara. Bach to tempt us with her nearly-nakedness. In my defence, I wasn't the only one slightly preoccupied with Barabra's natural state, Rawshark's not so sqeaky clean as he appears sometimes: "I hope they convinced Barbara to take her bra off in this movie." And Jim may have been thinking about getting a peek at Barbara's Bachs but was more likely thinking about the fact that he was about 5 days off from getting married.
"Sergio Martino was definitely going through a fish phase wasn't he?" remarks the ever vigilant Rawshark upon discovery that these two movies (yes, shot bach-to-bach) have a remarkable similarity. Both star Bach and poor man's Stacy Keach, Claudio Cassinelli, whose manly ruggedness obviously served him well in the arena of Italian fish movies circa 1979. "That's the same fucking guy from the last movie!" shouts a clearly excited Jim, and this isn't Cassinelli's ZC debut either, with credentials like Rome 2033: Fighter Centurians (yes I know it's rubbish), Mountain of the Cannibal God and Atomic Cyborg on his credits. Interestingly, it was during the shoot for Atomic Cyborg that he died in a helicopter crash so I reckon we should dedicate this Zombie Club to his memory.
I'm noticing a bit of a second paragraph preoccupation with death of Italian actors going on in this ZC report so i'll try to steer clear of such morbid trivia (can death be trivia?) and try to start talking about the movie a little more in the future. Sorry about that. Oh, by the way, look out for Bach's AMAZING first scene where she makes her entrance by blasting a pesky snake to bits with a shotgun. Quality.
"Don't touch the leaves! The voodoo!"
Jim You know, morbid Italian actor death trivia aside, it’s also quite alarming how preoccupied with Barbara Bach’s overabundance of clothes in this movie we had become (“Is she going to keep her corset on?” – Rawshark, “Of corset she is!” – Zomblee) because there’s actually quite a lot of cool stuff going on here. Richard Johnson minus the beard he sported in the last film (“I want a clean shaven Johnson!” – Rawshark), Joe Cotton who was apparently famous once, a bunch of natives that look (“a little bit Egyptian” – Zomblee) and, of course, a bucket load of good old fashioned slimy rubber suited fishmen.
But, after quite a few glasses of wine in jolly good company, it’s sometimes hard to stay focused. Those natives from the last film, was there leader the woman that looked a bit like Floella Benjamin killed at the beginning or the end? Did she come back as a voodoo zombie, or did I imagine that? And is there anything embarrassing about Zomblee admitting that, as a kid, he thought that she (Floella Benjamin that is) and Mr. T would make a lovely couple? And what of that fishmen Stone Henge, could it really be called Fish Henge? And while we’re on the subject, (“Do fishmen have cocks? I take it they don’t?” – Zomblee)
No, thankfully there is no fishman rape in this movie (you’ll have to watch Endgame for that visual spectacle), but there are various Atlantis references throughout, prompting the many Doug McClure calls that Rawshark pointed out. Well fear not readers, after this Zombie Club I went on a DVD hunt and bagged McClure’s classic Warlords of Atlantis and the rare but rather brilliant Raiders of Atlantis by the very famous Ruggero Deodato. There’s a Zombie Club match made in heaven right there – watch this space.
Oh, and the marriage is going pretty well, thanks for asking.
“Zombie don’t exist, they’ve never existed!”
Director Sergio Martino
Cast Barbara Bach
Runtime 86 mins
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So that's that then, Barbara Bach did The Spy Who Loved Me, Up The Academy and a load of Italian films like these. Oh, and she was also in the French sci-fi L'Humanoid (known over here as The Humanoid) which starred Richard Kiel too, making that another spurrious Bond link.
Next week we have the amazing Jim Kelly of Enter The Dragon fame doing some funky 70s blaxploitation kung-fu. There are also a surprising number of Bond references in next weeks movies too, so keep an eye out for those.
In the meantime, did you read that Barbara Bach fell off a horse a few weeks ago at the age of 60, but she escaped with minor injuries and bruising? You don't hear about her for years then she crops up on eatmybrains.comand in the daily tabloids, what are the chances of that? She's still married to Ringo Starr, by the way, which is nice.