Friday, 18 March 2011

The Big Cube (1969)

By 1969 the counter-culture flower-power psychedelic freak-out thing was starting to look like the next big thing as far as movies were concerned. Even the big studios were jumping on the bandwagon. The Big Cube was one of the results.

It’s an interesting mix - a psychedelic acid-trip movie combined with a psychological horror thriller and some totally over-the-top melodrama. Of course it doesn’t work but watching it fail is great fun.

Lana Turner is middle-aged Broadway star Adriana Roman who has married wealthy financier Charles Winthrop and has decided to give up the theatre to concentrate on being a wife. Her new husband has a daughter, Lisa, who has ben away at school in Switzerland for some years but has now finished school and returned home. There’s initially plenty of tension between the new wife and the step-daughter.

Lisa is a very innocent young woman and she soon falls in with a bad crowd. Her new friends are acid-heads but Lisa is entirely oblivious to all this, although she is puzzled a to why they keep dropping sugar cubes into their beers. She falls for handsome and charming medical student Johnny (George Chakiris) but Johnny has a thriving sideline selling drugs. He’s not overly concerned when he gets kicked out of medical school because Lisa has lots of money and persuading her to marry him should be child’s play.
Predictably Lisa’s dad and step-mom aren’t impressed by Johnny.

When Lisa’s father is killed in a boating accident Johnny sees his chance but unfortunately Winthrop senior’s will leaves Adrian in control of the purse-strings. Johnny’s devious mind had a solution to this. They’ll add LSD to Adriana’s sleeping pills and send her crazy so they can get their hands on the money. It doesn’t take long before Adriana starts to lose her grip but can they prevent things from going too far?

It all climaxes with a bizarre therapy-by-theatre scene.

There are the expected psychedelic special effects, there’s plenty of amusingly cringe-inducing dialogue and there’s as much bad acting as you could ever desire. All this combined with a wonderfully silly script. But the icing on the cake is that it takes itself way too seriously which makes it even more fun.

There’s also some terribly music, some cool discotheque scenes and some brief nudity to give the picture a suitable air of sin and wickedness.

Lana Turner’s performance is mind-boggling. I have no idea if she realised how silly the movie was. Mostly she looks very confused. She deals with this by pulling out all the stops and giving a performance that is constantly on the verge of hysteria. It works for me. And she has a delightful puzzled expression that takes the movie into camp overkill.

The other actors are uniformly horrendously awful, which is as it should be in this type of movie.

It’s a terrible movie but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

It was released on DVD as part of Warner’s Cult Camp Classics 2 Women in Peril boxed set. The image quality is superb. If you have an appreciation of camp then you’ll certainly want to see this one.

2 comments:

Jonny Metro said...

Good write-up! I'm glad that I wasn't the only person to enjoy this slice of psychedlic schlock. I love how ridiculous the visuals get in films like these as the filmmakers try to show how 'hip' and 'groovy' they are.

--J/Metro

My review (if you're interested)

Stacia said...

I'm glad you thought Lana looked confused, too. I could not decide if it was deliberate, or if it was that sort of weird perpetual surprise she got for a few months after a face lift. That sounds like snark, but I'm being serious.