Sunday, August 2, 2020

Let's Go To The Movies # 2 Fr. Aug. 10 1973

It Fri. night in Detroit, MI (and probably hot & humid as all hell) so let's go to a nice air-conditioned theatre or head over to a drive-in.

The world premiere of DETROIT 9000 is downtown at the Madison and at the Camelot and Norwest. Filmed on location in Detroit "It's the murder capital of the world, The Black rip-off of the decade, and a White cop squeezed in the middle", it stars the great Alex Rocco along with a host of Detroit area '70s personalities in cameos.

Featuring an ad campaign that promoted Detroit's infamous sky-rocketing homicide rate (a record 751 would be recorded in 1974), its a favorite of Quentin Tarantino and was directed by Arthur Marks who had a great run in the '70s with BONNIE'S KIDS ("Thank God She Only Had Two!"), THE CANDY SNATCHERS, FRIDAY FOSTER, and THE ROOMMATES among others.

The magnificent Tamera Dobson stars in the surprisingly "PG" rated CLEOPATRA JONES ("She's 6 Feet 2" of Dynamite!") which has been held over at the Grand Circus and the Mercury. Directed by 70's drive-in guru Jack Starret (best known as the sadistic Deputy Gault in FIRST BLOOD), it also co-stars a full-on scenery-chewing Shelly Winters (who as to be seen to be believed here). 

The Grand Circus along with the Fox and the Adams were the giant old movie houses in downtown Detroit located around the Grand Circus Park area. In the '70s they specialized in blaxploitation, kung fu, and stuff like the ILSA films. And on the way home, you could stop at Lafayette Coney Island.

 Dwain Esper's infamous VD warning film SEX MADNESS (which harkens back to 1937) is getting one of its countless revivals in several area theatres. Hopefully, there was a white-coated guy in the lobby hawking pamphlets warning you of the ill-effects of pre-marital sex. "She Sought Thrills And Caught Trouble!"  Plus as a double feature, you get the 1927 "weed western" HIGH ON THE RANGE with famed Hollywood stuntman Yakima Canutt.

The sequel to 1972's BLACULA, SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM is held over at the downtown theatre the Palms. Starring the very effective and Shakespearian-trained William Marshall the ad really plays up co-star Pam Grier's involvement along with her recent hit COFFY ("Pam Grier-That Coffy Spitfire is a Voodoo Priestess Now!") which shows how big a box office draw she was in the '70s.  

With a big 1/8 page ad the porno-chic, THE DEVIL IN MISS JONES from the previous year is still in its exclusive run at the Krim. Like DEEP THROAT, many theatres ran this almost 24/7 and it racked in tens of millions (if not hundreds of millions) of dollars for it's mob-controlled distributers during the '70s. 

Sporting another surprising "PG" rating the drive-in classic WHITE LIGHTNING is playing multiple locations including (appropriately enough) six local drive-ins. Directed by the vastly underrated Joesph Sargent (THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE) and starring a pre-mega-star Burt Reynolds, it's a surprisingly nihilistically brutal (and often really sweaty) film. Co-starring a thoroughly evil Ned Beatty and a gaggle of character actors including Bo Hopkins, Dabbs Greer, Matt Clark, Diane Ladd. R.G. Armstrong and the wonderful Jennifer Billingsley.

This and its follow-up GATOR from 1976 played drive-ins in the south well into the '80s. 

Hey, look at this! There's a spook show happening at the Holiday Drive-In hosted by local Detroit horror host Sir Graves Ghastly. The spook shows are fascinating and now forgotten bit of film-going history. Usually featuring one (or maybe two) old "B" horror films they featured costumed monsters and guys in gorilla suits jumping out at the audience or rampaging through the drive-in lot all of which was hosted by a local celebrity (usually as here the local Saturday TV horror host). Sometimes at drive-ins, they would bury somebody in a box just under the surface of the drive-in lot (hopefully with an air outlet) and they would pop out at the appropriate time as a zombie. 

Directed by Ralph Bakshi the animated (and unrated) HEAVY TRAFFIC is getting a pretty wide release. I remember seeing this later in the decade at midnight shows and this is my favorite of Bakshi's films. "More Spice From The Makers of Fritz The Cat!"

"For the Sake of Your Sanity, Pray it isn't True!" One of the greatest haunted house films ever and featuring a magnificent performance from Pamela Franklin, THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE (with another WTF were-they-thinking '70's "PG" rating) is still getting a broad release a couple months after its release date including the Northgate in Hazel Park which was a great somewhat-on-the-scuzzy-side theatre that specialized in horror and slasher. 

Arguably featuring career-best performances from Gene Hackman and Al Pacino, the ultimate downer of a 70's buddy road movie SCARECROW is in its last week and is playing four theatres out in the 'burbs after it's April opening. 

Down at the Studio 8 on 8 Mile and complete with a review quote from Family Circle (??) magazine ("It's not a dirty movie") is Bernardo Bertolucci's LAST TANGO IN PARIS. Located east of 8 Mile Road's string of topless bars, adult bookstores and massage parlors, The Studio tended to feature arthouse and foreign films. 

Last chance at the Camelot to see the really cool double feature of BONNIE AND CLYDE and BULLITT. A bit earlier than this, I saw BULLITT and NEVADA SMITH on a double feature.

"Shaft's back and twice as bad...Kickin' the Mafia up and down the world and back." The third (and final) in the Shaft series the James Bond-ish SHAFT IN AFRICA is playing two drive-ins and one theatre. The weakest of the two sequels it has a plot that doesn't hold up to much scrutiny, but Richard Roundtree's screen presence helps as he busts a modern-day slavery ring and there's Vonetta Mcgee (who's also in  DETROIT 9000) and heaps of violence of bare skin. "Wanna see Shaft again? This time bring yo' momma!"

Down at the Fox, there's SLAUGHTER'S BIG RIPOFF with Jim Brown in the follow-up to 1972's SLAUGHTER with Brown's ex-Green Beret and his '73 Dodge Charger once again taking on the mob. Which here is in the form of Johnny Carson sidekick Ed McMahon (!!) plus you got perineal 70's heavy Don Stroud, Gloria Hendrey from LIVE AND LET DIE and SAVAGE SISTERS and of course, Jim Brown killing bunches of bad guys. 

Rounding out the double feature is TRICK BABY from 1972 which is well worth seeking out.

For the adults-only inclined we've got THE FOURSOME along with the always-running DEEP THROAT and some good old-fashioned burlesque at National Burlesk Theatre (across from Crowley's Dept. Store) featuring Mademoiselle Di-Di BangBang (42-24-36).

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Rosalba Neri News # 32 THE FU MANCHU CYCLE 1965 - 1969 on Blu fom Indicator


   Collecting the five Fu Manchu titles produced by Harry Alan Towers, Indicator has announced this release for 19 Oct. 2020.  Directed by Don Sharpe, Jeremy Summers, and Jess Franco these feature Christopher as the title villain with Nigel Green, Douglas Wilmer, and Richard Greene playing his arch-nemesis Nayland Smith.
   A mixture of pulpy adventure and James Bond with a sprinkling of Euro-horror they are collected together in this limited (6000 units) edition box set. Containing a plethora of extras (some of which will address the controversies now attached to the character) including commentaries, interviews, image galleries, the first chapter of the silent Fu Manchu serial from 1923 and nice fat book among others.   
    Rosalba appears (with some really odd costume choices) in the last film in the cycle with Jess Franco's THE CASTLE OF FU MANCHU from 1969. There's a new 2020 interview listed with her in extras which is a definite plus.

Monday, July 27, 2020


     One of the more fascinating personalities on the periphery of motion picture history was producer Kroger Babb (who billed himself as "America's Fearless Showman"). A husker showman in the vein of the more famous Dave Friedman, Babb specialized in sex education films and mondo-style travelogues with his best-known effort being MOM AND DAD. First released in 1945 MOM AND DAD was infamously known for its graphic birth-of-a-baby footage and continued to play theatres well into the 1970s (eventually grossing upwards of $50 million) and was even added to the National Film Registry in 2006.
    In 1970 Babb released WALK THE WALK in what might have been an attempt to cash-in on an A.I.P.-type counter-culture film but in its marketing seems to harken back to REEFER MADNESS with a warning about the evils of drug use while also providing a head-ups to the older generation to the hippie movement.
    Directed by Jac Zacha whose only other directorial credit is the early gay sexploitation film THE STUD FARM from 1969, WALK THE WALK was produced by Babb's Ohio-based Hallmark Productions (formally known as Hygienic Productions when Babb was marketing sex-education films) and it seems to have gotten a decent amount of play around the country (with a lot of Midwest playdates) based upon newspapers ads. It disappeared after its release becoming a lost film for decades until several copies were found in an out-of-business film lab. It's available for streaming on director Nicolas Winding Refn's excellent byNWR website which is a treasure trove of cult & forgotten films.

      WALK THE WALK has 40-something old seminary student Mike (Bernie Hamilton - brother of jazz great Chico Hamilton and best remembered as Capt. Dobey on STARSKY AND HUTCH) who wanders through a bizarre collection of characters and settings in Los Angeles on his quest for heroin to feed his habit.  Starting with Mike ravenously licking various spots in his room where he had previously stashed his dope he heads out to score. Arriving a club with an unnamed psychedelic rock band wailing in the background he meets up with an equally long-in-the-tooth Judy (Honor Lawrence) who seems to have some sort of mystical status among the plots counter-culture characters. For a film supposedly dealing with the "youth movement" most of the actors (including many of the extras) appear to be at least 20 years too old for their respective parts??
     Moving from one random sequence to the next, Judy sets up "Toke" (Eric Weston THE IRON TRIANGLE) to take the fall for a drug deal for unexplained reasons, she and Mike hang out at her house where she goes into monologues concerning Warner Brothers cartoons and there's a stolen chalice lurking about. Most of the dialogue seems to ad-libbed on the spot and the characters all engage in endless conversations that have nothing to do with the plot. Along the way we witness a hippie wedding overseen by Judy, a clown car-like assemble of people (and dogs) exiting a car and a climatic endless lopping chase that starts in the city but switches to the desert suddenly. The film has three(!!) credited cinematographers which might mean an on-again/off-again shooting schedule. 
    Filmed around a decapitated and dingy looking Venice the film features some excellent and bizarre location work that fits in with the proceedings with a very grungy post-Manson/Gimme Shelter end-of-the-hippie-dream atmosphere pervading everything. The acoustic folk soundtrack is by Kevin Dwyer and Eric Zohn (credited as Kevin and Eric).

   The director Jac Zacha based the film on much of his own experience (there are some period articles from trade publications over at Chris Poggiali's Temple of Schlock blog) and there was originally a filmed prologue with Zacha that is missing from the surviving prints. 
   Most often meandering and boring this a cinematic oddity, to say the least, but its always nice to have a previously missing piece of film history appear and I find these weird little bits from the dark recesses of cinema endlessly fascinating.