In the middle 1980s/ Way down on Level 31 …
Before MST3K there was The Texas 27 Film Vault! Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of this neglected cult show from the 1980s with another review of an episode where an original air date can be determined. My interview with some of the original cast, my research through VERY old newspapers and emailed memories from my fellow Vaulties are helping in this attempt to reconstruct elements of the show’s history.
EPISODE ORIGINALLY BROADCAST: Saturday March 2nd, 1985 from 10:30pm to 1:00 am.
FILM VAULT LORE: This is the 2nd oldest episode I’ve reviewed. The oldest episode was the February 9th, 1985 airing of Trunk to Cairo with Audie Murphy. Special thanks to my fellow T27FV fan Jessica for the serial episode and a comedy sketch from the episode.
One of the comedy sketches in the show was a mock commercial for Blue Arrow Bus Lines, the fictional bus line in the movie. The phony ad hyped the bus line as the Official Bus Line of female fugitives on the run.
SERIAL: Before showing and mocking the movie machine-gun toting Randy and Richard of the fictional Film Vault Corps (“The few, the proud, the sarcastic”) showed and mocked a chapter of the notoriously campy sci-fi serial The Lost City (1935).
That serial featured a super-scientific city lost in the middle of the African jungle plus zombified “giant” African tribesmen, ray-guns, a slinky femme fatale and a tribe of pygmies. There’s also a Great White Hunter as the hero and a mad scientist whose inventions include a machine that turns black people into white people! And the “colorization” is considered a REWARD for tribesmen who serve the mad scientist well! All this plus BOTH William Boyds in one serial!
THE MOVIE: GIRLS ON PROBATION (1938) was one of the countless Warner Brothers B-movies that future president Ronald Reagan starred in before his career in politics. Reagan had just been inaugurated for his second term less than two months earlier so the Reagan jokes from our Film Vault Technicans First Class no doubt flew hard and fast. The Texas 27 Film Vault also showed Bedtime for Bonzo, another infamous Reagan pic, but I have yet to narrow down the exact date of that episode.
Reagan is the romantic lead in this flick, portraying lawyer Neil Dillon, the Knight in Shining Armor for misunderstood girl Connie Heath (Jane Bryan), one of the title females. Connie is the victim of bad company and of so many unfortunate coincidences that it will put you in mind of the much later MST3K episode Teenage Crimewave. Her sleazy and easy “friend” Hilda Engstrom constantly entangles her in illegal actions and leaves her holding the bag for some of them.
The flick plays like a campy 30s version of Les Miserables as the bitchy girlfriend of Reagan’s character viciously insists on pressing charges against Connie for wearing a dress shanghaied from the cleaner company that Connie and Hilda work for. Naturally Hilda really stole the dress but loaned it to poor Connie who gets fingered for the theft.
Later Connie is in the wrong place at the wrong time and gets implicated in a bank robbery attempt by Hilda and her mad-dog boyfriend Tony Rand (Anthony Averill).
Naturally in the end Rand gets his in a hail of bullets from the cops thanks to quick thinking from Connie and she and Dillon (Reagan), now an Assistant District Attorney, live happily ever after.
Even the uber-bitchy Hilda gets accidentally shot to death by Tony during the climactic shootout and her final words are hilariously campy. Talking to an attending priest she says “I’m on my way to meet your boss.” You’d be able to guess that line was from a Warner Brothers B-movie even if you didn’t know it.
Other enjoyably bad moments in the film include:
* Connie’s semi-psychotic father, who sounds like Mr Tudbole from The Carol Burnett Show but whose behavior is verbally, emotionally and even physically abusive to Connie and her mother. The man regally and impatiently demands his supper and a morning cup of coffee in the same quasi-threatening manner that he belts out his vicious remarks to the ladies of the house. “Over the top” doesn’t even BEGIN to describe him.
* A supposedly ritzy nightclub called Hula House.
* The detective who mutters half his lines to the party on the other end of the phone AFTER taking the phone away from his mouth. Hilarious!
* Reagan’s typically robotic, mild and bland performance as the nice guy lawyer beau of our suffering heroine. All of his characters always act so mellow it’s like they’re ON something.
* The mind-bogglingly funny inaccuracies of the courtroom scenes! Apparently in the Warner Brothers universe lawyers in court function like they’re in a “Point/Counterpoint” debate.
* The trigger-happy cops who simply open fire pell-mell into the crowd during the bank robbery scene.
* The campy female prison inmates during the scenes in the penitentiary. Apparently they’re doing hard time for felony stereotype charges.
* The obligatory catfight between Connie and Hilda while they’re behind bars.
* The outdated and chauvinistic dialogue including gems like “Who can figure dames” and Connie’s father’s remark when she starts to drive: “Another woman driver to make life unsafe on the streets.”
* Tony’s pure Warner Brothers escape from prison. The scene is like an exercise in self-parody and is pure comedy gold, albeit unintentionally. By the way, the prison alarm sounds like the horn that went off to signal the end of Fred Flintstone’s workday.
* The way Connie holds the engagement ring that Ronny has just slipped on her finger up to the telephone and says “Mom, LOOK!” Um. Okay.
IN THE NEAR FUTURE BALLADEER’S BLOG WILL PRESENT MORE TEXAS 27 FILM VAULT MILESTONES. Be here to share the Film Vault Corp’s mission of “safeguarding America’s schlock-culture heritage”.
FOR ADDITIONAL INFO ON THIS SHOW – https://glitternight.com/texas-27-film-vault/
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