Film Review: Kitten With a Whip (1964)

Release Date: November 4th, 1964 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Douglas Heyes
Written by: Douglas Heyes, Whit Masterson
Music by: William Loose, Henry Mancini, Carl W. Stalling
Cast: Ann-Margret, John Forsythe, Ann Doran

Universal Pictures, 83 Minutes

Review:

“Why, David, I thought I’d never find you in ladies’ underwear.” – Saleslady

Kitten With a Whip was a movie made to bank off of the popularity of rising star Ann-Margret. However, it’s a pretty terrible film that feels like it was rushed out to strike while the iron was hot. Luckily for Ann-Margret, her career had some staying power, she wasn’t a flash in the pan and she’d go on to be in much better films.

As bad as this was though, it shouldn’t be a surprise that it got riffed on Mystery Science Theater 3000. Plus, it fits nicely with a lot of the other B-movie teen and beatnik flicks that they played a lot.

The story is about a politician (John Forsythe), whose wife is out of town. One night he comes home to discover Ann-Margret’s Jody hiding out. Jody gives some sob story and convinces the sad sap to help her out.

Soon after, juvenile delinquents show up and make his life a living hell, as his nice house becomes a beatnik party bunker. The politician is afraid of scandal, so he puts up with it. Also, at one point, Jody tells him that she’ll accuse him of rape if he gets the cops. Eventually, the beatnik punks get violent and the politician and Jody flee to Mexico with the delinquents on their tail.

Honestly, the plot is a bit nuts but it does tap into some film-noir tropes while clearly trying to be more like the youth movies of the day.

This isn’t particularly well made, despite having good stars and being made by Universal.

Ultimately, this did showcase Ann-Marget’s dramatic side where her previous films were musicals. So in some way, I’m sure this helped her career more than it hurt it.

This is pretty forgettable though.

Rating: 3.75/10
Pairs well with: other Ann-Margret movies or other beatnik films featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Film Review: Murderers’ Row (1966)

Release Date: December 20th, 1966
Directed by: Henry Levin
Written by: Herbert Baker
Based on: Murderers’ Row by Donald Hamilton
Music by: Lalo Schifrin
Cast: Dean Martin, Ann-Margret, Karl Malden, Camilla Sparv, Dean Paul Martin, Desi Arnaz Jr.

Columbia Pictures, 105 Minutes

Review:

“Well what shall I do with the costume?” – Miss January, “Drop it in the ashtray.” – Matt Helm

Man, I really love these Matt Helm movies with Dean Martin. There is also four of them so this is really a quadrilogy of James Bond parodies three decades before the more famous parody trilogy Austin Powers.

Dean Martin is just the epitome of cool, even more so than anyone who ever played the James Bond character. Martin existed on an otherworldly level when it came to cool and because of that, these films sort of have an edge even on the James Bond franchise. Well, at least in the realm of pure coolness.

They also have a ’60s go-go vibe, mixed with a Tiki aesthetic and feel like they could fit within the same universe as the 1960s Batman television show. These movies are fun, entertaining and pretty hilarious. Martin is just a lovable guy, even with his womanizing ways. He exudes a certain kind of panache that is missing in modern times because such characters aren’t considered “socially acceptable” anymore. While some may consider Dean Martin a relic of a bygone chauvinistic era, I think he’s a harmless and wholesome guy that just appreciates a pretty girl and isn’t afraid to express his admiration. Granted, if he existed today, he’d probably be one of the dozens upon dozens of Hollywood men accused of something naughty.

In this film, Martin is joined by Ann-Margret, who was a mega star at the time. Despite the significant age difference, which was never really an issue for James Bond, it was cool seeing Dean Martin and Ann-Margret come together and star in this film, almost working as a tandem in the second half of the story.

Karl Malden plays the villain and he was a well-known veteran actor at the time that brought some extra gravitas and legitimacy to this production. While his role here wasn’t as challenging as his roles in On the WaterfrontA Streetcar Named Desire or Patton, he looked to be having fun and he really brought something to the picture that was lacking in the first film, even though I liked Victor Buono as the bad guy in that one.

These Matt Helm movies aren’t necessarily cinematic masterpieces but they are a blast to watch. Dean Martin was always great but I love seeing him play a fun loving super spy probably more than any other role he’s had. And as much as I loved the first film, this one is a wee bit better.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: The SilencersThe Ambushers or The Wrecking Crew: the other Matt Helm films.