In the midst of a sweltering summer, let’s dive once again into the cool waters of John Lamb‘s Mermaids of Tiburon (1962). Bad guy Milo Sangster looks sneaky as he is about to reveal one of the coveted “flame pearls” to his Mexican sidekick Pepe Gallardo (Jose Gonzales-Gonzales).
Today we take another look at John Lamb‘s Mermaids of Tiburon (1962). Pearl-coveting bad guy Milo Sangster (such a great character name) enjoys lunch while plotting his next nefarious enterprise.
The Psychotronica Vol. 3 DVD of Mermaids was apparently supposed to include some commentary by Romeo Carey, but looks like it never happened. It also includes the ridiculous “Aqua Sex” version of the film, which attempts to pass off some topless women with flippers on their feet as mermaids. I guess they figured nobody would notice they weren’t wearing mermaid tails. Let the head-shaking and eye-rolling commence.
Our pic of the day revisits Mermaids of Tiburon (1962), directed by underwater cinematography expert John Lamb. Wetsuit-clad bad guy Milo Sangster has just decked (literally) the hero, Dr. Sam Jamison (George Rowe).
Lamb fared much better as the director of underwater cinematography on television (Sea Hunt and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea) than he did as a film director, unfortunately. After Mermaids, he produced and directed forgettable low-budget sleaze, finally hanging it up in 1986. He passed away 20 years later.
Gonzales-Gonzales was a familiar face in films and on television in the 1950s and ’60s, almost always portraying the stereotypical Latino characters of the day. He recorded a novelty 45 rpm disc in 1964 with the tunes “Pancho Claus” and “Tacos for Two.” His brother Pedro co-starred with Tim in the Sheriff of Cochise episode “The Great Train Robbery” (10.5.56).
Timothy Carey goes further than the smiling heavies who show a lot of tooth: he shows a lot of gum. Not that the Carey smile has anything to do with humour: it happens, for instance, when he is concentrating, when in The Killing he is centring the telescopic sight of his rifle on a racehorse. In the next Stanley Kubrick film, Paths of Glory, he was one of the soldiers chosen by lot to be executed, but such a claim on audience sympathy is totally exceptional for Carey, who is unlike other heavies in being totally without attractive characteristics. As he is repulsive looking as well as being normally very evil, he induces an unambiguous audience reaction–it’s just not possible to harbour a subversive liking for a Carey villain.
Recently he turned up in Aqua Sex [Mermaids of Tiburon], a particularly crummy exploitation movie about mermaids (who came in various varieties–with legs or tails, bras or no bras). Carey disturbed the peace of their island in search of treasure and so became perhaps the first man in movies to be done to death by mermaids.
We kick off the work week with another look at Milo Sangster, the evil-doer of John Lamb‘s Mermaids of Tiburon (1962). He is not above dynamiting mermaids and tossing his sidekick (Jose Gonzales-Gonzales) into shark-infested waters in his quest for the elusive “fire pearls.” Here he is pondering his plan while the wind messes up his hair.
Something tells me Timothy enjoyed being near the water. In this film and others like Bayou (1957), he seems right at home around water. I’m sure being a Pisces had something to do with it, if you go for that sort of thing.
Our pic of the day is a delightfully evil shot of bad guy Milo Sangster from John Lamb‘s Mermaids of Tiburon (1962). While pushing some equipment around on his boat, Timothy manages to direct this wicked grin right into the camera.
Tim’s old friend and former roommate Gil Barreto is in the cast list here, but I’m not sure that he actually appears in the film as it’s available today (on DVD and also at Fandor). They had both just come off the taxing four-year ordeal that was the shooting of The World’s Greatest Sinner (1962). Lamb was the underwater photographer for several television series, including Sea Hunt and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Diane Webber, who appears here as the Mermaid Queen, also portrayed a mermaid in the Voyage episode entitled, strangely enough, “The Mermaid” (01/29/67). It was directed by Jerry Hopper, who directed Tim in Alaska Seas (1954). Lamb again helmed the underwater sequences. Alas, it’s a mostly dreadful episode.
Consider Timothy Agoglia Carey, a rough-hewn, riveting beastie who, starting in the heyday of noir, slouched his way toward some backlot Bethlehem. He first hit a public nerve as a slurry-voiced gunsel in Andre’ de Toth’s B-grade sleeper Crime Wave (54) and was last seen in a trifling part in the trifle Echo Park (86). In between he appeared in nearly four dozen films, ranging from the sublime – a pair of Stanley Kubrick’s earlier and arguably best features – to such artsy turkeys as John Cassavetes’ The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (76).
Usually restricted to playing loathsome genre heavies, Carey’s strongest performances offer the kind of mixed signals associated not so much with art or craft as with pathology or the twisted mysteries of DNA. Paralleling his psycho roles, Carey’s dark personal legend encompasses 40 years of dedicated, or perhaps just helpless, eccentricity – zany behavior shading off into the macabre. Since the era of The Killing (56), Paths of Glory (57), Kazan’s East of Eden (55), and Brando’s One-Eyed Jacks (61), he’d hung in my mind as one of the first Method character actors, embodying all the follies and fevers of that holy-roller theatrical regimen. Even in throwaway parts – opposite The Monkees in Head (68), for Chrissake – you could look into his hooded, jittery eyes and sense real danger. Prankster or madman? Crusader or wise guy? The choice was hard to make when, in the dog days of August 1992, Carey materialized after almost a decade off-screen for an evening of manic schtick and pitiless self-revelation at the Nuart Theatre in West L.A.
A program highlight was a screening of The World’s Greatest Sinner, possibly the most bizarre vanity-cum-auteur vehicle on record. the 77-minute black-and-white feature credits Carey as star, writer, producer, director, and distributor. He plays a bored insurance salesman who changes his name to God, develops a youth following and a nasty lust for power, and winds up believing his own con. In the end, he blasphemously challenges the heavenly powers and, I think, realizes the enormity of his hubris. (Make that His hubris).
Finally released in 1964, the picture never found its rightful place in the grind houses and drive-ins of the period, where Carey was at the time being hissed by millions in the exploitation hits Mermaids of Tiburon (a.k.a. Aqua Sex)(62) and Poor White Trash (61). This one-night-only screening was the fifth commercial play date for Carey’s brainchild. At the intermission, the long-legged Carey, wearing his sparkly Sinner getup, loped onto the stage, his big-time weirdo persona ingrained and ageless. His voice was like a meat grinder full of nails. He began speaking about the joys of public farting. In a sort of jive disquisition, he cited Salvador Dali on the benefits of breaking wind as a social activity. “Me, I fart loud – I can’t be a hypocrite. I get these parts, but I never get to play ’em because I fart out loud. Why can’t we all fart together? Let thy arse make wind!” […]
Applause at the end faded quickly. Carey took up a position in the lobby, wearing a fixed smile, ready to sign autographs. But the audience filed silently past him. I walked by close enough to see that he believed his own blather. You could tell he was somewhat twisted in the melon, but not plain gaga – a primitive artist and a primitive human.
Back in the Fifties and Sixties, I’d gone to movies because Jack Elam was in them, or Neville Brand – or Timothy Carey. Perhaps only the camera truly loved these kinds of mavericks and marginals, but I’d always regarded the skull-faced Carey as one of the quintessential hard-boiled actors, and I now found myself savoring his mix of gaucherie and ballsiness in taking on, among others, the sensitivity police of the Nineties. As he held his smile and we made passing eye contact, I thought I’d like to pick his lock. For hours afterward, I wondered at Carey’s cockeyed grace in handling the crowd’s rejection, and I dreamed about him that night in his matchless performances – the condemned soldier who kills a cockroach in Paths of Glory, the feral assassin who fondles a puppy and talks mayhem with Sterling Hayden in The Killing.
– Grover Lewis, “Cracked Actor”, Film Comment Jan/Feb 2004; interview conducted in 1992
OK, this one is a bit of a cheat. This video of John Lamb‘s Mermaids of Tiburon (1962) is actually only the first two minutes. On the YouTube page there is a link that will enable you online access to the entire movie for one week for a very small fee. I don’t normally do this kind of thing, but there it is. Online videos with Timothy actually in them are getting hard to find! I may have to start repeating myself.
Since Tim is not actually in this clip (even though there he is in the video thumbnail), here is a shot of him from the film, about to brain our hero with an oxygen tank.
By special request (not to mention that it’s way past time for a revisit), today’s pic is another shot from Mermaids of Tiburon (1962), directed by underwater photography expert John Lamb. Timothy’s bad guy Milo Sangster (what a great name) is menacing the hero (George Rowe) with a flare. He appears to be really enjoying it, too.
It’s too bad Tim didn’t get a chance to do more films outdoors and especially on the water; he appears to be right at home. I don’t know if being a Pisces had anything to do with it.