Saturday, July 4, 2015

THE GREAT TEXAS DYNAMITE CHASE 1976

(AKA DYNAMITE WOMEN)

Claudia Jennings Movie Night # 5 !


"MAKE A DATE TO DETONATE !"




     Produced by Roger Corman's New World Pictures (and one of Claudia's more popular pictures) this 1976 action exploitation favorite gained some notoriety in the early 90's as being looked at as a precursor to Ridley Scott's THELMA AND LOUISE. Although its debatable whether Scott had seen or was even aware of it's existence the two movies do share some similar themes primarily in a plot line based upon two strong central female characters who embark on a road trip which turns ugly & violent (however Claudia and her buddy are a more deliberately crime centered duo from the get go - and show bit more scenery then their 90's counterparts). Although lately its been fun to see how people read things such as social comment or gender issues into exploitation movies that for the most part were likely pretty far from the said films creators end purposes, THE GREAT TEXAS DYNAMITE CHASE while at its core being basic 70's drive-in fare does have some interesting stuff lurking in its plot (whether by design or not by writer Mark Rosin & director Michael Pressman) and fits kind of left handed in with the 70's "road" movie genre. Plus anytime you get Claudia Jennings into a pair of daisy dukes worked into your plot that's a good thing.




    Claudia stars as Candy Moran who upon escaping from prison (where she handily worked on a road crew doing blasting) and liberating some dynamite robs a local bank by brandishing the said dynamite and subsequently hands the money over to her Pa (who doesn't seem to mind much as far as her method of obtaining it) in order the pay off the mortgage on the family farm. While at the bank she catches the eye of teller Ellie Jo Turner (Jocelyn Jones from Dirty Harry's THE ENFORCER) who had just been fired from her bank position for constantly being late as a result of languishing in bed with her boyfriend(s). Later a hitchhiking Ellie Jo is picked up by Candy and the two women decide to become partners in the dynamite bank robbing way of life. Eventually they hook up with "Slim" (Johnny Crawford from the THE RIFLEMAN) who serves as a love interest for Ellie Jo and poses has a hostage for the gang's escalating robberies.
      Like a lot on 70's exploitation movies its a bit of a schizophrenic proposition and much like New Worlds Nurse series of movies, the film starts off with kind of a goofy comedy vibe to it before turning somewhat serious. At  one point it goes into an extended (way too extended...) under cranked sequence in fast motion that has the trio gleefully counting and playing with their stolen loot, while a short while later there's a couple of bloody shotgun killings. The police are shown to be pretty much complete buffons in the early sequences, but the above mentioned shotgun sequence turns film in almost a 180 degree direction and points it toward its somewhat downbeat ending.




     The plot channels a bit BONNIE AND CLYDE and BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID with its pair of rebels vs. the establishment plot line, but doesn't lose sight of the main reasons people would be drawn to this - stuff blowing up and Claudia in (and out of) her daisy dukes. We don't get a lot of character establishment (but we really don't need it - or want it) and the the plot sticks pretty close to the Roger Corman mantra of boobs and/or action every 15 minutes or so. With all that being said however, the plot does place its two female leads strongly front and center and in control of their chosen way of life. Though it does offer up the requisite nudity & sex with both Candy and Ellie Jo (sometimes even together), they rebuff any man who forces himself upon them and engage in relationships when they want to and on their terms.
     Claudia & Jocelyn have a great chemistry together (in some scenes they look almost like sisters) and film does have some quite funny moments in the first half with Claudia dressing up in a prissy hair bun with large glasses to call in a fake bomb threat in order for Jocelyn to stage a robbery while posing as a pushy bank customer. A wonderfully natural & charismatic actress, Claudia's charms are on full display here and its easy to see why see was one of the few true drive-in stars during the 70's. In 1979 she missed out to replace Kate Jackson on CHARLIE'S ANGELS (with the part going to Shelly Hack) and later that same year she would tragically die in head on automobile collision on Topanga Canyon Blvd. after falling asleep at the wheel of her car.  
     Under its THE GREAT TEXAS DYNAMITE title this is available from Shout Factory on DVD (in one of their typical schizophrenic packages) that includes the tolerable & sorta fun Corman produced TV pilot GEORGIA PEACHES with Tanya Tucker and Terri Nunn, along with the insufferable and utter crap-fest SMOKEY BITES THE DUST - with Claudia at least getting a disc to herself.
   
 Claudia Rockin' the Shotgun !!









 


Monday, June 29, 2015

THE BODY BENEATH 1969

    
    
"Filmed in the Graveyards of England" 



     During the late 60's low budget Staten Island filmmaker Andy Milligan was cranking out ramshackle horror and grungy sex shocker films, mostly for low budget mogul William Mishkin the sleaze king of Times Square. Andy's battles with the penny pinching Mishkin are the stuff of legend and while Mishken did have the uncanny ability to market Andy's poverty budgeted epics and give them lengthy runs on the grindhouse circuit, his suspect accounting practices sent the ever violate Milligan into fits of rage.
    In 1968 at the behest of British producer Leslie Elloitt, Milligan packed up his 16 mm Auricon camera and headed off to London, where he would be seemingly free of his nemesis and could indulge in his love of Gothic settings. After rounding up the usual gang of misfits and disparate actors somewhat bizarrely Andy's first feature for Elloitt was the non-horror NIGHTBIRDS, a  very strange & downbeat story of a twisted love relationship between a pair of London street waifs. Only shown commercially once, it became a lost film until a print was recently discovered and released on blu-ray by BFI.




     For his second feature Milligan turned to his love of all things Gothic (although here with a contemporary setting) and made for all intensive purposes his most cohesive film and the one with the most straightforward narration - but still with burning hunchbacks, bright red stage blood, over blown dialogue & Andy's patented method of shooting highly un-erotic nude lovemaking sequences. Although the script is still filled with Andy's flowery overwrought prose, for once he found an actor worthy of it in the form of Gavin Reed (who later showed up in small but memorable, part in TOOTSIE). Although his haughty attitude and sneering condescending delivery would seem overdone in any other film, in Milligan's twisted universe and gutter view of the human race its a scenery chewing marriage in hell.
     Reed plays the Reverend Algernon Ford, who newly arrived in London, sets up residence at Carfax Abby (one of many nods to Bram Stoker & Lugosi's DRACULA peppered about) and looks to revive the All Souls Church. Along with his constantly knitting wife Alicia (played with an unnerving creepy silence by Susan Heard) he pays a visit on Graham Ford (Colin Gordon) who the Rev. claims to be a distant relative of. He invites Graham and wife Anna (Susan Clark) to dinner, while Anna has just had an unnerving experience in a local cemetery where she was accosted by three pasty blue faced blond haired women. Later the Rev. meets a young couple Susan's & Paul (Jackie Skarvellis & Richmond Ross) with who he also claims to be a relative of Susan and offers to officiate at their upcoming wedding.




    Seems the Rev. and his wife are part of a centuries old vampire clan who have begun to get progressively weaker caused by inbreeding and need to get some new blood infused into the family (all of which fits into Andy's favorite theme of dysfunctional families). Occasionally Alicia has to give blood transfusions to her ever weakening hubby and administer leeches to control his blood pressure. In addition sunlight doesn't kill them outright, but makes the grow weaker. After luring Susan to his home the Rev kidnaps her with the plan to turn into a baby maker in order to provide new blood into the clan and in addition sends the blue faced vampires out out for Susan who once vampirized lures Graham to Carfax Abbey for breeding purposes. In addition yet another relative Candace (Emma Jones) is kidnapped in order to use for a handy blood supply.
    Assisting the Ford's is sympathetic hunchback Spool (Berwick Kaler from NIGHTBIRDS) who after attempting to help the captives is crucified in an ornate garden with the blue faced harpies dancing about and the Rev. Ford pontificating in one of the more bizarre & surreal moments in Andy's cannon. Also hanging about is the Ford's maid, who while also showing some sympathies for the captives gets a pair of knitting needles shoved in her eyeballs for her trouble. The film ends in a delirious sequence with the vampires holding a meeting thats allows Andy to unleash his fondness for outrageous costumes (with many looking to be made from shower curtains) and outlandish head wear for the ladies. Rev. Ford decides to move the clan to America which prompts one the vampire ladies to unleash this classic piece of Milligan dialogue - "Go to America ? Never ! What is America ? What it it made of ? Pimps, prostitutes, religious fanatics ? Thrown out of England but a few short centuries ago. They're the scum of the Earth !" - which most likely is a peek into Andy's psych and his feeling for his native country's "establishment".




     With the look of an acid tinged Hammer film shot through a Vaseline smeared lens this is for however bizarre it may seem on the surface, Milligan's most accessible film. His trademark swirling camerawork is held to a minimum, athough his 16mm camera can still be heard whirring away in the background at certain points. With the contemporary setting he doesn't have to worry (not that he worried anyways) about such things as light sockets and background traffic noises that invade his usual "period pieces" and the London setting help tremendously with the films atmosphere (much better then the usual Staten Island). As to be expected the pacing is a bit off with some long drawn out dialogue sequences (punctuated by jarring editing) & wonky sound editing- but what the heck, this IS an Andy Milligan film.
     Much of the film was shot at Sarum Chase, a Tudor style mansion in West Hampstead that served as the setting for numerous film and photo shoots including the inner gate fold of The Rolling Stones Beggars Banquet album. Andy would later shoot much of CURSE OF THE FULL MOON here - later re-titled THE RATS ARE COMING, THE WEREWOLVES ARE HERE !".
    Sadly, THE BODY BENEATH  would be the end of Andy's British sojourn as he had the to be expected falling out with his British producers. THE BODY BENEATH was never released in England but did play throughout the 70's on 42nd St. where it was co-billed with Andy's GURU THE MAD MONK. He stayed in England for awhile and ending making three movies there for the hated Mishkin - his take on Sweeney Todd with the THE BLOODTHIRSTY BUTCHERS, Jekyll & Hyde in THE MAN WITH TWO HEADS and the above mentioned CURSE OF THE FULL MOON.  








Friday, June 19, 2015

Happy Birthday Rosalba Neri

   In honor of this blogs favorite actress on her 76th birthday here's some LADY FRANKENSTEIN goodies. Below is the set of Italian "fotobusta" posters (along with the two one sheets) that were sent out to cinemas in Italy at the time of the films release. I've managed to pick up some of these for some other movies and they really are gorgeous with the montage design work & lurid bright colors. This entire set was up on Ebay Italy recently and sold for a pretty hefty sum.










  

   In some other Rosalba/LADY FRANKENSTEIN related news, a beautiful German trailer with some really eye popping color showed up on YouTube awhile back. It now seems to have disappeared, but here are some screen grabs from it. This is how this movie should look and hopefully one day the planets will align (and the lawyers will get all the rights sorted out...) and we'll get an uncut blu-ray.