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THE PHYNX (1970).

This infamous rock 'n' roll spy satire is such a blissfully unreleasable misfire that I couldn't take my eyes off of it. Hilarious (for all the most unintentional reasons), it's crammed to the sprocket holes with cameo appearances from Hollywood's most decrepit stars, and plenty of limp Cold War schtick. Kicking off with asinine animated credits, it strives for the wackiness of The Monkees, but only inflicts the type of abdominal pain that comes from watching too much of The Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon. A Warner Brothers' pick-up, I wonder who dosed their water cooler the day this celluloid turd came up for a vote... When Communist Albania snatches several of America's most-unemployed entertainers, including George Jessel, Butterfly McQueen, and Colonel Sanders, the SSA (Super Secret Agency) gets involved. Their undercover agents are decked out as bikers, hookers, Black Panthers, and armed Boy Scouts, while their leader wears a cardboard box over his head but sounds exactly like Tricky Dick Nixon (courtesy of Rich Little). Consulting their super-hokey super-computer MOTHA (Mechanical Oracle That Helps Americans, which is shaped like a woman, complete with cone-shaped breasts that'd put an eye out), it calculates that their best bet is to infiltrate Albania via a rock group. Now, all they have to do is create a new, chart-topping sensation -- which they do with a quartet of "volunteers", including a black actor, an Indian, a jock, and a college dweeb. Calling themselves Phynx (oh, now the title makes sense) and dressing like a living shrine to Sonny Bono, Clint Walker heads up their military training, Richard Pryor turns up in a cook's outfit to "teach you soul," Dick Clark gives their mod perms a thumb's up, and a Phil Spector-style, white-robed, rock-music-guru named Philbaby (Larry Hankin, accompanied by Warhol-superstar Ultra Violet) produces their music. Next stop, The Ed Sullivan Show, where they wow the crowd with "What is Your Sign?"; and then it's onto Europe, where the spy shit kicks in -- making their way into Albania with the aid of groovy glasses that allow them to see through women's clothes, locate secret maps traced on their bellies, and finally use the power of rock 'n' roll to break down barriers. Literally... Additional cameos include James Brown awarding them a gold record, plus blink-or-you'll-miss-'em appearances from Rona Barrett, Trini Lopez, Martha Raye, Joan Blondell, Johnny Weismuller, Joe Louis, Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall, Rudy Vallee, Edger Bergen, and Pat O'Brian (who quips that if fate had been kinder, Ronald Reagan would've been here instead of him). Mind you, this is only a partial list, and there are more fossils in this pic than in the Museum of Natural History. Despite all its (very obvious) failings, how can you dislike a movie with dialogue like: "The US government is pleased to announce... an orgy! " as a roomful of cheerleaders and Playboy bunnies attack our pre-fab rock sensation? The hideous fashions include anglo afros, the crappy music was by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, and director Lee H. Katzin went onto direct episodes of SPACE 1999 and the pilot for THE MAN FROM ATLANTIS. 'Nuff said.

© 1997 by Steven Puchalski.