Friday, November 19, 2004

Daddy-O (1959)

When cliched 50s slang meets portly, massage-loving master criminals, you know you've entered...The Daddy-O Zone. In one of the most tepid films to ever include the Eisenhower-era scandal trifecta of murder, drag racing, and dope dealing, Dick Contino plays Daddy-O, a.k.a. Phil Sandifer a.k.a. Pete Plum. He's a former circus-joining runaway who traded in the three rings for a steady gig truck driving, with the inexplicable sideline as a singer of mildly scandalous rock 'n' roll tunes (didn't Elvis make the same movie as some point?).

Goaded into a hot rod showdown by fiery sex kitten Jana (Sandra Giles), he is seen by a nightwatchman driving recklessly while not far away his best friend ("some guys have brothers - I had Sonny") is being forced off another road to his death. While he manages to correct the cops' initial theory fingering him as the killer, he does lose his job, his license to drive, and is placed on probation for his hot rodding ways. Naturally, this leaves him open for a shady job offer from the cigar-loving drug importer and all around plus-size sybarite, Sidney Chillas (Bruno VeSota). The rest involves what was clearly intended to be a Usual Suspects-level labryinth of crime drama plotting, but unfolds like someone unrolling a soggy carpet. You discover that the nearsighted meathead at the gym who wouldn't let Daddy-O empty his dead best friend's locker is - hold on there - hiding something! And yes, Bond villianesque criminal Chillas is indeed smuggling drugs into the country from Mexico. What did you think the small, valuable package that everyone wanted to get their hands on was? Did they expect us to think someone pounded the Maltese Falcon into a rectangle and wrapped it in brown paper?

The film, of course, does have its moments. Leading man Contino has an early performance on stage at a local bar where bottled beer and below-the-knee knit skirts are the rule of the evening. Singing the decided non-hit "Rock Candy Baby" he manages to perform in the higest waisted pants in film history. The belt-line of these black slacks are mere inches from his armpits - memorably parodied on the MST3K episode dedicated to this movie. Fans of restaurants that look like the food they serve will also appreciate a cameo by legendary L.A. hot dog stand Tail O' the Pup, featured lovingly in Rick Sebak's documentary tribute to ground hog anus, A Hot Dog Program. For those reasons, and for the fact that Chillas had a full-size steam room (but not a bathroom) as part of his office suite, I give 1959's Daddy-O a polite nod.

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