After my recent review of POOR PRETTY EDDIE here on the Del Valle Archives blog, I remembered SAVAGE INTRUDER, a completely unreal train wreck of a film that was barely released back in 1969 that starred the late great Miriam Hopkins in her last performance. This was the real last gasp of the Baby Jane/horror hag sub-genre of films made to showcase screen stars of a certain age who had seen better days. At least that breaks it down for starters, as this mind boggling exercise in bad taste is right up there with POOR PRETTY EDDIE in the tasteless sweepstakes and it really is neck and neck. Eddie is slightly in the lead with editing and production values since this film has a one time editor as it's director and it shows. Donald Wolfe is more than likely a Kenneth Anger devotee with none of the master's style or talent. The trippy camera angles, the dated evil hippy killer is all stuff we have seen before, yet this film has it's charms especially if you realize going into to this that the filmic pleasures are in the details. Now, Ms. Hopkins was a fine actress and Bette Davis' equal in every way. In fact, Hopkins might have been the better of the two since she could do comedy where Davis could not unless you are talking camp and that’s where Baby Jane comes to mind. The irony that Hopkins would make her own "Baby Jane" too late in the game is just another case of bad timing.
|Our lady killer, John David Garfield.|
|The Hollywood Sign never looked better.|
After what might be construed as the most “artsy” part of the picture (the opening credits are juxtaposed over a dilapidated Hollywood Sign in total neglect as the wind blows, nearly knocking over a letter or two from it foundation), the film begins and continues to rock on with wild abandon in which Miriam Hopkins stars as a movie queen/has been (which she really was at this point in her life) who perceives herself as a still vibrant star who spends her days drinking and dreaming of a comeback that will never happen. She is surrounded by people who still remember her when she was golden (and more should have been made of it if the director who also wrote the screenplay had not been so pleased with himself for securing her services in the first place).
|Norma Desmond? Hardly.|
|Our favorite "Spider Woman."|
As I mentioned earlier, the film was screened sporadically in theaters and at Drive-Ins from 1969 until the early part of 1971, where it fell into obscurity before being released on VHS in the early 90s (and then on DVD some 20 years later). I prefer the film’s shooting title of THE COMEBACK, although it really should have had a Robert Aldrich title of COME BACK SWEET KATHERINE or something more in keeping with it's roots, dyed as they are. While SAVAGE INTRUDER has a running time of nearly 100 minutes, the best bits, of course, involve Miriam in one way or another.
|"Is this a fag or a freak?"|
This film almost qualifies as a “so bad it is good”, except it really isn't, not by a mile, yet it has so many moments that stay with you long after the film is over that it must have some value as a time capsule of what Hollywood became long after the studio system stopped protecting it's stars from themselves and television brought it all home to roost. The opening shots of the Hollywood Sign falling apart before our very eyes stayed in my subconscious until I wrote my book, using that similar imagery as a starting point for my memoirs. The mansion that is used to create Miriam’s world was built by the silent film director Maurice Tourneur and was lived in at one time by Madge Bellamy of WHITE ZOMBIE fame. They credit Norma Talmadge as the owner but there has never been any proof of this to my knowledge.
|"What am I doing in this movie?"|
|"Miriam, show us your tits!"|
|"Miriam, I love you....Just kidding."|