MUSICAL MUTINY (1970) – Halloween Month continues here at Balladeer’s Blog with a Barry Mahon movie that’s more frighteningly bad than it is frightening. I’ve recently become obsessed with this made in Florida wonder that features the ghost of a long-dead pirate, the deskbound narrator from Blood Freak and a mad scientist intent on taking over the world with his new beverage which gets drinkers higher than marijuana. There are also three on-stage performances by Iron Butterfly (yes, really), including the full-length version of In A Gadda Da Vida.
Perhaps most importantly for me and my fellow Bad Movie geeks, this is the earliest movie release done as a promotional piece for Pirates World, the long-defunct Florida amusement park featured in notorious Grade Z films like Jack and the Beanstalk, Thumbelina plus Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny (reviewed in 2010 here at Balladeer’s Blog). In fact, Musical Mutiny is so obscure that as of this writing there are only five user reviews at IMDb.
Before I get into a detailed review of Musical Mutiny, I want to point out how the pitifully few other reviews out there for this rather pathetic flick don’t seem to get the exact type of bad movie it really is. It usually gets listed as a documentary or a musical in those places where its existence is acknowledged at all.
In my opinion Musical Mutiny is more precisely a very poor attempt at recapturing the rock music youth appeal and groaningly strained “zaniness” of films like the Frankie and Annette beach movies, or imitations like The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini, Catalina Caper, A Swinging Summer or The Girls on the Beach.
Like those movies this film uses a minimal storyline as an excuse for a look at youth culture peppered with musical performances by assorted rock and roll acts. In this case a bonus element is the way that Musical Mutiny also serves as a promotional film for Pirates World. (More on that unique bit of cultural kitsch below.)
The ghost of a long dead pirate emerges from the sea resentful of the amusement park (Pirates World) which now rests on his favorite hangout of the past. The disgruntled ghost sets in motion a “mutiny” against the park owners by trying to ruin them financially. These story elements put one in mind of the supernatural aspects of The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini and the bad guy’s plan to drive people away from a beach resort in The Fat Spy.
However, Musical Mutiny overdoes the whacky antagonist theme by adding the thoroughly unnecessary twenty-something mad scientist planning world conquest via his new concoction.
This flick also pads its slim running time of 72 minutes with a romantic subplot – like all of the groovy youth movies – and an attempt to save Pirates World from ruin over the undead pirate’s vendetta – like the attempt to save the Lake Arrowhead Resort in A Swinging Summer. Hell, you could even trace the latter element all the way back to the old Judy Garland/ Mickey Rooney “Let’s put on a show to save the farm” movies.
Putting the “music” in Musical Mutiny are various rock acts. Iron Butterfly are the headliners, like Little Richard was the big name in Catalina Caper, the Beach Boys were in The Girls on the Beach and Nancy Sinatra was in The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini. Other musical acts in this movie are Terri de Sario plus bands called Grit, Fantasy and the New Society Band.
Now let’s move on to my detailed review, and bear in mind this is an incredibly bad version of the above referenced groovy youth movies. And when a film is considered a bad version of the likes of The Fat Spy and Catalina Caper, you’re talking very poor quality indeed.
*** Musical Mutiny opens with some of the music from In A Gadda Da Vida playing as our ghostly pirate Don Williams materializes on the beach near Pirates World, as if emerging from the sea which claimed his body centuries earlier. And yes, his name really is just plain Don Williams, not “Dashing Don Williams” or “Daring Don Williams” or some other piratey moniker.
The undead swashbuckler is wearing a pitiful excuse for a pirate costume that looks like a bathrobe, sword and scabbard plus a cheap feathered pirate hat like the kind sold at Pirates World. His plan – which we viewers are given no clue about at this point – begins as he tries to recruit the youthful, counterculture types arriving to enter the amusement park.
Don the Pirate tries to do this by regaling them with phrases like “gather ’round, me buckos” and “belay the chatter, mates” so perhaps it’s no surprise that he can only persuade one lone biker to join him. The ghost talks about how the youth of America should “stow all talk of revolution” and take action by joining his musical mutiny against Pirates World. Don produces countless invitations and gives them to the biker, who drives off to spread the invites around and tell everyone he can about the mutiny.
A character I’ll call Fast Running Hippie now appears, trying to catch up to the biker, waving a manila folder which obviously contains something he wants the biker to see. The Fast Running Hippie is pictured in fast-motion footage for the sake of “comedy” I guess. He will reappear many, many times during the movie, leading up to a punch line in the closing seconds that is painfully typical of the soul-destroying attempts at humor so typical of films in this sub-genre.
This opening reminds me of the way Santa summons assorted children to a Florida beach at the beginning of Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny two years later.
*** We now follow the biker as he delivers his invitations, with the Fast Running Hippie inevitably showing up after he departs from each location. First up the biker rides right on into the break room of a small college, where a bunch of students joylessly listen to the playing of a drum by an earnest young rocker.
This drummer is joined by a vertical scratch in the film stock which outshines him in every way. I’m serious. That vertical scratch is the most entertaining aspect of this entire humdrum scene and will appear in a few other early scenes before disappearing until much later, when it joins Iron Butterfly on stage.
Setting the pattern for all of his deliveries of the invitations, the biker simply hands one to a single character in the room, then hollers about how “It’s a mutiny, man!” Inexplicably, all hearers somehow instinctively know what the biker is talking about and enthusiastically head for Pirates World even though the biker never mentioned it. And only one person ever read the invitation.
In one of the few well-handled bits of business, we see two students approaching the entrance doors to the college building and when they open the double doors they are stunned by the biker who rides out on his way to deliver more invites. This gag is almost rendered competently enough to bring a smile.
And so it goes. After some annoyingly unfunny slapstick schtick from Don the Pirate back at the park (picture Exidor/ Robert Donner’s lame efforts in Catalina Caper, only much worse), we jump ahead to the biker’s next location several minutes before he gets there.
*** We now meet our Romantic Couple, Bland Rich Kid and Not Deborah Raffin Girl. (Look, this movie refuses to have characters address each other by name 95% of the time, and the credits – even at IMDb – are no help, so I’m forced to come up with these nicknames for them.) Bland Rich Kid and Not Deborah Raffin Girl are watching the musical rehearsals of a female singer who sounds very much like Janis Joplin, and her keyboardist.
We get some dialogue to familiarize us with Bland Rich Kid and Not Deborah Raffin Girl. (Hey, they’re no Stretch Dude and Clobber Girl but what can ya do?) It becomes apparent that, though he is thrilled with their relationship, she is growing impatient with the way her beau is too timid to break out from under his wealthy father’s control. She even sneers at him for his boastful claim that he may sign up Not Janis Joplin and her Keyboard Guy, implying he’d be too meek to do anything like use his millions to start his own record label without his daddy’s permission.
(When laid out like this, the film’s similarities to other groovy youth movies become apparent. I think it’s the incredibly low budget, poor sound quality and incompetent acting & directing which make Musical Mutiny so inscrutable to so many reviewers.)
Not Janis Joplin and Keyboard Guy end their rehearsal and ponder their lack of success, thinking that just the two of them are not enough and maybe they need to hook up with a larger musical group. At long last, a name is used for a character other than Don Williams as Bland Rich Kid addresses his girlfriend as “Nancy.”
The biker shows up again, proclaiming the mutiny, and Not Janis Joplin & Keyboard Guy excitedly run off, leaving viewers with no clue how they know where to go or exactly what is in the offing. Bland Rich Kid, of course, feels he should check with his father before taking Nancy to said mutiny, much to her disgust.
In a high point for me and my fellow fans of Bad Movies, Bland Rich Kid’s father is played by THE Brad Grinter, the chain-smoking, deskbound narrator of Blood Freak, the man-turned-turkey-headed-monster flick reviewed years ago here at Balladeer’s Blog. He also played the Boss in Flesh Feast and starred in another Barry Mahon movie, The Love Pirate.
We viewers at last learn that Bland Rich Kid’s name is Cyril when he makes his phone call to his father. Since the father is played by Brad Grinter it made me wonder if Cyril is being played by Randy Grinter, whose name appears in the opening credits. Like everyone else in those credits his name is not matched with a character, and as I stated above, IMDb is no help. (At least not as of this writing.)
Cyril’s Father agrees to let his son use their private plane for a few days so he can fly down to Florida for this mutiny. He closes the conversation with “Oh, by the way, if you see your mother, tell her hello.” Next, Cyril’s Father calls his financial advisor … a porn-stached hippie who hangs out with other pot-smoking, music jamming hippies.
Despite the generation gap and the way Hippie Financial Guru talks down to him, Cyril’s Father open-mindedly accepts monetary advice from this character, apparently on a regular basis. This made me wonder how much of a wimp Cyril is if he’s too intimidated to assert himself with THIS amiable, mellow father.
Hilariously enough, when Cyril’s Father happens to mention that his son is using the family plane to fly to a mutiny, Hippie Financial Guru immediately perks up and, somehow knowing where to go and when, finishes the phone call and tells his musician friends to join him as they head for Pirates World.
NOTE: Okay, this film is so ineptly directed and has characters so weak that it may not be apparent on a first viewing, but Not Janis Joplin and Keyboard Guy will, by movie’s end, join up with the guitarists and the drummer who were hanging out with Hippie Financial Guru. They perform as the band called Fantasy but director Barry Mahon will fail to make any of that clear. I only noticed it after repeated viewings and put the faces together along with the way Not Janis Joplin and Keyboard Guy mentioned needing a larger group to join up with.
*** Back at Pirates World, the ghost of Don the Pirate makes his plans to ruin the park a little clearer by ordering the man at the entrance gate to Pirates World to open the entrance at 7PM and allow everyone in free for the Iron Butterfly concert. Luckily for the ghost, this lunkhead of an employee agrees to follow those instructions, despite saying he doesn’t know who Don is. The undead buccaneer claims to be the new head of publicity.
With the deathless words “We’re gonna call it mutiny and that’s just what it’s gonna be!” (?) Don the Pirate wanders off for further mind-numbingly unfunny schtick. And speaking of unfunny schtick, we now join Mr Bertram, the fictional (I guess) owner of Pirates World.
Mr Bertram and his younger assistant, Mr Bright, talk about that night’s upcoming Iron Butterfly concert. Bertram needs reassurance that the concert will be a hit because the amusement park is in desperate need of money. Bright flaunts his youth credentials and familiarity with rock music to make his boss calm down.
NOTE: In real life the management at Pirates World was no doubt worried about the ongoing construction of Disney World in Orlando. That park would open in 1971 and Pirates World would be driven out of business by the competition a few years later. Ironically, Pirates World hosted an astonishing array of high profile concerts from its opening in 1967 until 1974.
The park featured concerts by Led Zeppelin, the Grateful Dead, Black Sabbath, Traffic, the Moody Blues, the Doors, David Bowie and many, many others. Johnny Winter’s live album was recorded at Pirates World.
*** Back to Florida and the biker delivering the invitations to the mutiny. And remember, he showed up at the location where Cyril and Nancy were hanging out, a location far enough away from Florida for them to need A PLANE to get to.
At any rate, we jump ahead to his destination again, to find THE Terri de Sario performing for assorted hippies in a park. She is playing a guitar and displaying her beautiful singing voice. She would go on to collaborate with the Bee Gees, have a disco hit of her own and win an award for her Gospel Music singing in the years ahead.
NOTE: Let me make it clear that Terri and the other musicians in this movie have absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about here. The film may suck planet-sized balls but that’s not their fault – it’s due to the directing, writing and camera work.
In the hands of a competent filmmaker Musical Mutiny might have become a fondly remembered bit of cultural kitsch. As it is, Terri de Sario omits her appearance in this flick at her self-run website and the New Society Band dodged questions about it years ago at the Taki forums.
Be that as it may, you know the routine by now. The biker mentions a mutiny, hands out an invitation that will go unread by all but one person, yet everybody within earshot races to their vehicles to get to Pirates World. Some of this particular group go there in a GARBAGE TRUCK that sports signs saying “You are what you eat.”
*** And now … DUNE BUGGY FOOTAGE, and plenty of it! I’m serious. Several makes and models of dune buggies are shown racing along the Florida roads and beaches, all headed for Pirates World. There is no dialogue, there is no incidental music, there is nothing in this film’s world for several excruciating minutes except dune buggies driven by various youngsters.
*** Cyril and Nancy are shown arriving at the airport in his classic car and boarding the family plane bound for Florida. Yet somehow the biker who invited them already beat them down there. Amazing! Meanwhile, the leader of the Garbage Truck Hippies is shown using semaphore flags (I am NOT making this up!) to signal a family in a motorboat about the impending mutiny.
We get some more footage of the painful to watch Don the Pirate as well as some rides and attractions at Pirates World. I can honestly say that Pirates World never looked better on film than it does in Musical Mutiny. It looks like a real, competently run amusement park and not the sad little place that it seems in Thumbelina and Jack and the Beanstalk or Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny. The pathetic dioramas in those movies make the park seem especially lame.
*** Around the 22 minute mark our youthful mad scientist at last makes his first appearance. He’s named Doc Haggard and instead of a lab coat this eyeglass wearing villain is attired in regular clothing for a 1970 male in his early twenties. Again, this bland apparel shows the laziness of the directing in Musical Mutiny.
I’m not asking for bugged-out eyes and a Professor Irwin Corey level of schtick from this mad scientist character but aside from his chemistry set and mild megalomania he, too, fades into the woodwork since his wardrobe makes him largely indistinguishable from the other youthful figures in the movie.
Doc Haggard has concocted a chemical formula which when imbibed makes his two dim-witted flunkies high. They even remark that it will “make grass just as obsolete as Sarsaparilla.” He calls it Doc Haggard’s Magic Elixir sometimes and at other times Doc Haggard’s Fantastic Freedom Formula, the Ninth Wonder of the World. Doc plans for it to make him the ruler of the entire younger generation and provide him with so much wealth he’ll be “the King of Kings.”
The actor playing Doc Haggard tries hard, so I was rooting for him. Anyway, to further his ambitions he plans to raise enough money to mass produce his new drink by selling it from a stand set up at an amusement park. Obviously, he picks Pirates World.
*** And back at that park, the ghost of Don the Pirate is convincing another gate employee to completely disregard anyone from management who tells him to stop letting people in to the Iron Butterfly concert for free. He tells him “It’s all part of the act” and gives him a balloon that looks just enough like a Mickey Mouse balloon that I’m surprised Disney Corporation didn’t sue.
The dune buggy contingent and some bikers arrive at the park, as do Cyril and Nancy after a limo picks them up at the airport as they exit the family plane. Mr Bertram and Mr Bright are at last informed by Watkins, one of the gate attendants, that everybody is being let in free for the concert.
Bertram is outraged, Bright is alarmed and Watkins describes the man who told him to let everyone in free as a guy dressed in a pirate costume “like everybody else around here” even though we have not seen anybody except Don the Pirate wearing a pirate costume. The Pirates World employees wear light blue casual dress outfits.
The undead pirate Don sweats profusely, waves to some random park attendees and dodges Bertram and Bright as they continue their blustering huffing and puffing routine while walking around the park. We also see Hippie Financial Guru enjoying Pirates World amusements alongside the musicians who will become part of Fantasy.
Doc Haggard and his two stooges have set up a routine lemonade stand as a cover for sales of his intoxicating beverage and are trying to sell it at 10 cents a pop, completely ignoring the way he claimed earlier that he would sell it for a dollar a drink, then raise it to five bucks a pop. Further ignoring his own preset plans, Doc is advertising it as merely “Love Lemonade.” I have no idea what happened to the more grandiose branding he had in mind during his rant from earlier in the film. If the movie doesn’t care, there’s no reason the rest of us should.
Two potential customers choose not to buy any of his beverage. A woman says it’s because she’s on her way to the concert and a young man says he “Just had a Coke and I’m pretty full now.” I can usually eat two or three Cokes myself before I’m full, but that’s just me.
*** Belatedly, Bertram and Bright arrive at the front gate and have it closed, but the place is already packed with concertgoers who got in for free. With absolutely no introduction, Iron Butterfly take the stage and perform two of their songs. I’m not enough of a fan of theirs to know the titles of the songs.
We get footage of the concert crowd but for the most part they’re acting very downbeat and subdued. They’re full of as much esprit de corps as the final hours in Jonestown must have been. Director Mahon edits in periodic closeups of various hippies smiling and swaying in time to … something other than the music we viewers are hearing.
After the second Iron Butterfly song, and just as the crowd is really getting into the mood with applause and cheerier behavior, Mr Bright takes the stage to introduce his boss Mr Bertram, who announces that since everybody got in for free he can’t afford to pay Iron Butterfly so everyone will have to leave the concert.
Going even further, he calls the audience a bunch of freeloaders and tells them if they want music to go make it themselves. Hell, Mr Bertram should have been scooped up by Disney when Pirates World went under! He’s got all the charm and people skills of their current management and executives!
The crowd grows unruly but is lured away from the concert pavilion by the sound of drumming. Our break room drummer from earlier in the movie is once again performing solo, this time elsewhere in the park. He’s mediocre but the teens and twenty-somethings in attendance all flood to his location to listen in rapt attention for some reason.
Following that, the band Grit lip-synch and pretend to be playing their instruments to one of their songs while riding on the merry go round. (At least I assume it’s Grit through process of elimination. Fantasy and the New Society Band are fairly clearly indicated when they perform and Terri de Sario already performed solo earlier in the movie.)
This merry go round footage is some of the best in the flick, and would make wonderful archival footage if Grit had ever hit it big. Plus Pirates World is nicely showcased again during this song.
*** Now we jump to Bertram and Bright attempting to negotiate with Iron Butterfly’s manager, trying to get him to accept a small percentage of the $15,000 they were promised since the band only did two songs so far. Coming to the rescue is Hippie Financial Guru (above left), who offers to pay the whole fifteen grand because he’s having a “pretty groovy time tonight.”
At first the abrasive Bertram is skeptical that a porn-stached hippie could casually come up with that kind of money, but ultimately accepts. He then starts to kiss up to Hippie Financial Guru, and the pair discuss HFG becoming an investor in Pirates World. The scene is so underplayed and poorly presented that I’m sure most viewers don’t even notice that’s what’s going on. Anyway, I guess that solves Pirates World’s financial issues. Not that the filmmakers care enough to make it clear to us.
Up next , the band called Fantasy plays a song. Since Barry Mahon’s attitude is still apparently “Ah, figure it out for yourselves!” I’ll follow through with viewers to let them know that Fantasy consists of Not Janis Joplin, her Keyboard Guy and the guitarists and drummer who were jamming at Hippie Financial Guru’s place earlier in the movie.
The separate groupings of entertainers both mentioned how they needed additional musicians to complete their sound, and it looks like they teamed up together in this fictional origin of Fantasy that I pointed out earlier in this review. Both Not Janis Joplin and the male singer from the guitarists and drummer sing during their piece.
Cyril is so impressed with Fantasy that he tells Nancy he’s going to sign them up and start his own record label, without his father’s help. She is pleased, and we viewers should feel privileged that Mahon actually made one of his movie’s resolution scenes comprehensible.
The New Society Band now play a song but who knows what the title is. Neither this film’s credits nor IMDB offer any information on that. This group had a reasonably successful album called The Barock Sound of the New Society, making them the third most accomplished musical act in this movie after Iron Butterfly and Terri de Sario. Plus, Gary Mule Deer once belonged to the New Society Band.
Finally, Iron Butterfly return to the stage for the full version of In A Gadda Da Vida. Mahon presents some decent concert footage along with “trippy” hippie imagery. In addition he throws in still photos of angry U.S. servicemen brandishing their weapons, a stigmata-free Jesus and a naked model body-painted like an American flag.
Comically enough, we also get repetitive, “gif style” shots of two midriff-baring ladies and a blonde with a cleft chin grooving to the music.
Doc Haggard, exasperated that nobody has tried his chemical concoction, drives off a potential customer, dumps the liquid all over his lackeys and then angrily (or something) jumps in the nearest body of water in Pirates World. It’s just another pale attempt to imitate the broad, corny humor of the other groovy youth movies but handled very poorly and with virtually no setup for the gag.
Continuing to wrap things up, Cyril and Nancy dismiss his limo driver and leave the concert with the Garbage Truck Hippies to visually cement Cyril’s new independence I suppose. The ghostly Don the Pirate walks back toward the sea until he disappears. I guess he feels satisfied that his plan worked.
Oh, wait, no it didn’t! It backfired, ultimately leading to Mr Bertram interesting Hippie Financial Guru into investing in Pirates World, thus fictionally saving its bacon. Anyway, we’ll never know how Don felt about the way things turned out. Barry Mahon doesn’t even have the old seadog shake his fist before walking off or anything like that.
Still, I would have preferred Don the Pirate as the mascot of Pirates World instead of the godawful Ice Cream Bunny. Finally ending Musical Mutiny is the resolution of the recurring Fast Running Hippie bit. After watching the ghost of Don the Pirate vanish back into the sea from whence he came, the character opens up the manila folder to reveal a big document which says merely THE END.
Wow! What a long strange trip – even though it only lasted 72 minutes. I fell in love with this little honey, but be warned, it is recommended ONLY for my fellow obsessive Bad Movie lovers. Others may find it fun to laugh at in small bursts but it takes a devoted Golden Turkey hunter to sit all the way through it, especially as many times as I have in the last seventy-two hours.
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