Here’s one I meant to review earlier but got sidetracked for reasons that still escape me. I caught it on DVD a couple of months ago with my hubby. I remember vividly his reaction to it. It was a mix of smirks and sarcasms from beginning to end, and to tell you the truth, I don’t really blame him. I mean how could I? This film is kind of whack—and it stars none other than the queen of high-gloss cinema herself, Miss Lana Turner. Anyone who’s caught her in gems such as IMITATION OF LIFE or PORTRAIT IN BLACK knows of her killer looks but limited talent. But as usual I was the only one who got a kick out of them that faithful day; so much so, in fact, that I now rank her presence in THE BIG CUBE as one of the must-sees of the psychedelic ‘60s. And that’s saying something when you think of all the overblown performances we had already witnessed during that time: Patty Duke in VALLEY OF THE DOLLS, Kim Novak in THE LEGEND OF LYLAH CLARE, Stephen Boyd in THE OSCAR…
Turner plays a retired stage actress going slowly mad on LSD. What she fails to notice is that it’s all the doings of her stepdaughter who hates her guts, and you would too if you had to listen to all of those godawful step-mommy advices Turner gives while stealing the attention of the girl’s precious dad. Precious is a farfetched word to describe the goings-on of a selfish bloke who only wants to be with Lana, especially on the Pacific sea where he ultimately loses his life in a boating accident, rendering survivor Lana the executor of his estate. Of course, daughter dear will have none of that, hence the plan to make her go cuckoo. Meanwhile there is even a sillier subplot involving medical student George Chakaris (WEST SIDE STORY) and his free-spirited entourage charming his ways into the stepdaughter’s bank account. This guy is a major douche but you’ll have a ball following him as he schemes a plan to win big.
What’s even more ridiculously cool about THE BIG CUBE is that the over-the-top scale is never determined, meaning you could be caught off-guard at any time. From an impromptu striptease at a private party to a bad acid trip at a popular night club, not to mention the many crazy drug-induced antics of Lana Turner herself (always dressed to the nines by the great Edith Head), THE BIG CUBE gives you nothing more than entertainment sleaze. Who cares if it got more plot holes than my used knitted sweater or that the stepdaughter sports a Swedish accent even though she’s supposed to be an American (educated overseas is the explanation). The fun never strays, and that’s the best thing about it. And before you know it, The End appears and you find yourself cursing the gods of bad cinema for having reached its plateau with this one.
I have seen my share of Lana Turner movies and I got to admit that her career had never been as beguiling as when she made silly films like THE BIG CUBE. Alas, it was to be Lana’s last project from a major studio (Warner Brothers) before disappearing from the big screen. Of course she made a semi-comeback on TVs FALCON CREST in the early ‘80s. I had no idea who she was since KNOTS LANDING ruled my world in those days. But trust me, once I became aware of her star appeal it took me no time to catch up on her many films. If you dig her work as much as I do, then you’ll be happy to know that I plan on reviewing other Lana treats, and lucky for us there are so many to choose from.
Until next time—Martin