On one disc, “Dahling” stuffs two films (barely) featuring Gabor alongside some of her early TV appearances, but it’s the movies that blew my mind. First up is “Mooch Goes to Hollywood,” an hour-long “Benji” knock-off from 1971 that follows a pup fresh off the bus in Tinseltown and dreaming of stardom. Zsa Zsa serves as the omnipotent narrator, steering Mooch away from working in porn, and no, I’m not making that up.
During Mooch’s day, she imagines running on beach in slow motion toward Vincent Price; waitressing at the Playboy Club, complete with adorned with bunny ears and tail; and working as a stripper, with lingerie courtesy of Frederick’s of Hollywood, and again, I’m not making this up. And remember, this was made for children.
When she’s not daydreaming about sex, Mooch hangs on beach with bikini babes and muscle men; kills a seal (relax, it’s inflatable); gets beauty tips from Jill St. John; crashes the set of a Western; goes to the vet more than once; and acquires a bevy of nicknames, including Shaggy, Sunshine, Little Princess and Mrs. Magoo, the latter from Jim Backus, who wrote this thing.
Somehow, they conned Richard Burton to be in it, too.
“Mooch” looks like gold next to 1984’s “Frankenstein’s Great Aunt Tillie,” an utterly, completely witless comedy whose idea of a good joke is being set in Transylvania’s Mucklefugger Village. That’s as funny as it gets, with the Frankenstein clan returning to the family’s castle 100 years following the creation of you-know-what.
I didn’t even recognize Donald Pleasence, although he’s the star. Gabor appears only in a non-speaking flashback, as an “enchanting wench” with whom the Frankenstein patriarch enjoyed playing “slap and tickle.” Two things kept me watching this monstrosity: June Wilkinson, the 1958 Playboy sensation; she was 44 when this movie came out, and still looked fabulous (even if Inception’s print of the movie is markedly less than that).
Also among “Dahling”’s contents are a few trailers of Gabor’s other films, including ones I wish were in this collection, from 1958’s sci-fi camp classic “Queen of Outer Space” to 1993’s D-list extravaganza “The Naked Truth.”
The Douglas collection
is much meatier, at three DVDs holding five movies and the requisite TV guest shots and trailers (the latter also showcasing his footsteps-following son, Michael). But whereas Gabor is more novelty than performer, Douglas is an Oscar-winning legend with several iconic films under his belt. You’ll find none of them here, naturally.
You get his debut in the pretty decent 1946 film noir “The Strange Love of Martha Ivers”; the agreeable piffle that is 1948’s “My Dear Secretary”; 1952’s yawn-worthy Western, “The Big Trees”; and 1971’s “Catch Me a Spy” (aka “To Catch a Spy”), which should be better than it is.
However, the saving grace of “The Legacy Collection” is masterful — literally! It’s “The Master Touch,” a 1972 heist flick that’s been a favorite of mine for nearly half my life. Although Inception’s print is cropped on the sides — music is by “Ennio Morrico,” according to these credits — it’s still tough not to be engrossed in this engaging caper.
What makes it great is not its script, but its very much of-the-time nature. Being set in the country of its production, Italy, the film drips that swanky late-’60s style and vibe that endeared “Touch” to me from the start. In that era, no one made crime grittier and groovier than the Italians, and this one comes courtesy of sword-and-sandal vet Michele Lupo. In my opinion, it’s an unheralded gem in Kirk’s career that deserves better treatment. —Rod Lott