Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Big Cube

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to watch The Big Cube. It's available on DVD, so I'm comfortable doing a full-length post on the movie even though it's not on the TCM schedule any time soon.

Lana Turner plays Adriana, whom we see at the beginning performing in a play, as she's an actress. Well, soon to be a retired actress, since she's met a nice man and tells the audience that this is her final performance. That man is wealthy financier Charles Winthrop (Dan O'Herlihy), a widower with an adult daughter Lisa (Karin Mossberg). Lisa isn't particularly happy about the upcoming wedding, but she tries to be an adult about it.

Well, that is until her friend Bibi (Pamela Rodgers) introduces Lisa to some of her friends. This is the late 1960s, and it's the hippie acid scene. Lisa isn't particularly thrilled with Bibi's friends at first, but when her relationship with her stepmother continues to deteriorate, Lisa decides to spend some more time with Bibi and her friends. At least, until they all come over to the Winthrop place and have a "wild" (by the standards of late 1960s movies) party, which Dad and Stepmom walk in on. Dad is none too pleased.

But all of that is about to change. Charles and Adriana go on a vacation that involves going out on the ocean in Charles' yacht, and there's an accident that sends Adriana overboard. Charles jumps overboard to save Adriana; unfortunately, he drowns in so doing. Adriana is now a widow and executrix of a very wealthy man's estate, with the power to assent to his daughter's marriage (at least until she turns 25 and inherits the trust fund). Lisa really doesn't like that.

And she's made a boyfriend among Bibi's friends. Well, it's more that he's gone after her. That boyfriend is Johnny (George Chakiris), a med student dropout who goes after Lisa once he learns that her father was loaded. And when Daddy dies, Johnny comes up with a diabolical plan. He's good enough at chemistry that he can cook up LSD on his own apparently, so he's going to replace some of Stepmom's sedatives with LSD, in the hopes that the freak-out will drive her insane and give Lisa control of the estate!

Now, there are good movies about people who would like to marry against their parents' wishes, and might even be willing to get their parents out of the way to do it. Pretty Poison, for example, is quite entertaining. While The Big Cube has some good ideas, it ultimately begins to go south once the whole idea of driving Adriana crazy through LSD becomes the main plot point. I think there are a couple of reasons for this.

One is that the acid trip scenes are just so dopey, as though somebody in the production had just been given a new special-effects too, and was trying to figure out how best to use it. And then there's Karin Mossberg's acting. This was one of her only reasons, and there's a good reason why, which is that her acting is terrible. Lana Turner doesn't do badly, but she's not helped out by the script in the second half of the movie. In fact, the script is another problem; the attempt to drive Adriana crazy and then her playwright's (Richard Egan) attempt to restore her sanity require too much suspension of disbelief and go on too long.

If there's a bright spot, it's George Chakiris, who actually does fairly well playing such a slimy character, whose smugness makes you hate him even more. But even poor George has to suffer through a tacked-on finale that's an utter mess.

The Big Cube is one of those movies that at times hits the heights of "so bad it's good". Unfortunately, there are also a lot of times when it's just tedious.

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