Saturday, August 16, 2008


Lana Turner is a stage actress who retires to live the good life with her new rich husband, Dan O'Herlihy. His daughter (Karin Mossberg) resents Turner, mostly just because she's at that rebellious age, and she finds validation from her new boyfriend, George Chakiris, a slick, small-time hustler who hangs out with his druggie friends at a psychedelic nightclub where they ingest LSD-soaked sugar cubes (hence the title). When O'Herlihy and Turner are caught at sea during a storm, he is killed and she returns home, distraught, over-medicated, and suffering from amnesia, but also Mossberg's legal guardian. Chakiris, knowing that Mossberg might be in for a lot of money and knowing that Turner opposes their marriage, talks her into a plan to get Turner out of the way by dosing her medicine with LSD and pulling nasty pranks on her while she's high. They go to court to get Turner declared nuts, then get married, but the wedding party turns into a freakout orgy and Chakiris sleeps with Mossberg's best friend. The disgusted Mossberg turns to Richard Egan, a playwright friend of Turner's who also holds a torch for the actress, tells him what she's done, and he writes a play for Turner in which she'll play a character based on herself; he hopes the play will work as therapy and she'll come back to her senses before she's stashed away in an asylum.

This trippy 60's film, part of another "Camp Classics" set, has a reputation as a kind of MST3K, so-bad-it's-good flick, but I think it's actually a little better than that, though it is best appreciated as "guilty pleasure" camp. Underneath all the LSD references and light-show visuals, this is an old-fashioned GASLIGHT-type melodrama that might have starred Ingrid Bergman or Joan Fontaine if it had been made in the 40's. But it was made in the 60's with Lana Turner nearing the end of her career, and though she might have hoped that it would provide her with a "Baby Jane" comeback, it wasn't good enough to do so. But there are several pleasures to be had here: Turner is actually fine, in a 50's Joan Crawford mode, but she does have a scary face-lift look in her close-ups. Mossberg is not so fine; she seems altogether too goody-goody and her rebellious moods never ring true. Chakiris, a long way from his prestigious Oscar-winning turn as Bernardo in WEST SIDE STORY is OK as the bad boyfriend, doing his best work when he hits rock bottom in the last few minutes. The best scene, and the one everyone who has seen this movie quotes, is in the nightclub when druggie Carlos East decides to dose a musclebound jerk's beer with an acid chaser, snarling, "I'm gonna cube that mother, but good!" The guy's freakout is the highlight of the movie. Mexican actress Regina Torne plays a character called the Queen Bee, known as the lowest form of skank, a drug casualty groupie whom we first see with the muscly bad-tripper; by the end, she's enabling Chakiris' final freakout. If you have a high tolerance for this kind of campy exaggerated melodrama, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. [DVD]

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