Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Nazisploitation Movie Night # 2 - Jonny Quest Episode # 21 : The Devil's Tower

     If you were a kid (especially a boy) in the 60's Jonny Quest was about the coolest cartoon you'd ever seen. A heady mixture of James Bond, Republic Serials and sci/fi & monster movies all crammed into a half hour TV show. Created by comic artist Doug Widley it ran for only one season in 1964/65 (every episode ran over budget - hence cancellation), but it left an indelible wrinkle on millions of young brains. Quest stayed in syndication up until the early 70's until the watchdog group Action for Children's Television (ACT) had it cancelled because of onscreen death, violence, weaponry, monsters etc. - so you know it had to be great (and HEY !, I think those are the main reasons why we watched it !).
      The ongoing main plot concerned 11 year old Jonny Quest (voiced by Tim Matheson of Animal House fame) who father is famous U.S. government scientist Dr. Benton Quest. Although it was never specifically addressed it was implied that Jonny's mother died when he was young. To protect father & son from nasty foreign elements the government assigned bodyguard "Race" Bannon to protect them. This being the height of the cold war the villains that pop up in various episodes all speak with a heavy Russian accent or in the case of the one recurring bad guy Dr. Zinn , it’s the "Oriental peril" plot staple of the men's adventure magazines popular at the time. There's also Hadji (an Indian orphan adopted by Quest in one of the episodes) and Jonny's dog Bandit.

   Jonny Quest was unique in that it never talked down to its intended audience and manged to always mix in a bit of history, geography or science into each episode. The group jetted around the world to investigate weird happening & sightings while the plots mixed such things as Gothic horror, spy stuff, monsters, laser guns, giant robot spiders and even classic staples such as mummies and werewolves. In addition it had death in high doses - including (but not limited to) being eaten by alligators (and other creatures), guns, falling into chemicals and tar, plane crashes and a Quest favorite - getting blown into smithereens. Although it featured Hanna Barbara's "limited" animation style, thanks to Widley Jonny Quest has a real cinematic feel to it with dissolve shots, heavy use of shadows, close-ups and very effective use of music and sound effects along with some beautiful painted backgrounds.

   The Devil's Tower is one of the more memorable episodes as it concerns a Nazi war criminal in hiding, Neanderthal men, bi-planes, hand grenades and even a rope bridge. While using the bi-plane to chase an errant weather balloon which has drifted atop a huge plateau (it's never stated where the location is - maybe Africa or with a WWII German most likely South America), Dr. Quest and the group are captured by Nazi in hiding Klaus Von Duffle. Klaus is forcing some Neanderthal-like men (or "throwbacks" as Dr. Quest refers to them as) to mine diamonds which he has discovered. After commandeering the plane he attempts to kill the Quest gang by throwing hand grenades at them (while laughing maniacally) as they negotiate a narrow footpath and the classic rickety rope bridge. Of course this being Jonny Quest he has to die spectacularly - one of his hand grenades becomes lodged in the plane wing and he dies screaming as the plane is engulfed in flames and crashes (and of course blows up !).

   The entire show run is available on a DVD set - although it has had  some of the perceived un-PC dialogue such as "ignorant savages" edited out.

  The Race Bannon charactor was modeled after actor Jeff Chandler.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Big Ol' Box Of Vincent On Blu (& Hazel Court in Hi Def !!)


If you love VINCENT PRICE like we do then you're gonna love love LOVE this exciting news! We will be releasing a blu-ray collection box set before Halloween that showcases some of the legendary horror film star's greatest films which include:

- WITCHFINDER GENERAL- and its alternate U.S. version of the film, THE CONQUEROR WORM

More details (artwork, exact street date, pricing, extras, etc.) to be revealed in June-July so stay tuned you "Screamers"--as one of fans affectionately put it. 

   Some excellent & exciting news from over on Scream Factory's (who are fast becoming THE label for cult & horror ) Facebook  page via their deal with MGM. What you get is four of the Corman AIP "Poe" films, the very entertaining & fun Dr. Phibes and probably Price's best role, witchfinder Matthew Hopkins in the excellent Witchfinder General (with both U.S. & U.K. cuts !).  These should all look gorgeous on blu, especially The Masque of the Red Death (anytime you can get Hazel Court in hi def, it's something to get excited about) and Dr. Phibes with its art deco/psychedelic set design should be a real eye popper.
  Although marketed as a Poe film 1963's The Haunted Palace is actually one of the better screen attempts at H.P. Lovecraft. Based upon Lovecraft's tale of cursed ancestry "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward", Corman titled it The Haunted Palace after a Poe poem (which Price narrates a portion of at the films climax). Also starring Debra Paget (in one of her last roles before retiring), Lon Chaney Jr. (in one of his last good roles) and a whole bunch of those "Hey, that guy's been in a ton of stuff" faces - Leo Gordon, Elisha Cooke Jr., Frank Maxwell, John Diekres & Milton Parsons.  Plus a big multi-limbed monster/ Lovecraft Cthulhu looking thing (which is probably wisely kept out of focus - but is still pretty cool) lurking in the ever handy dungeon pit and the scenes of the local mutants wondering about the mist shrouded village of Arkham is one of those things you see as a kid and never forgot.
  Thanks to my blog buddy Voodoo Rob, where over on his Facebook page, I first heard about this. Hopefully Tomb of Ligeia, Tales of Terror, Dr. Phibes Rises Again and all the other AIP stuff owned by MGM is on the way. Bring 'em on !!

 Hazel & Jane Asher ( Beatle Paul McCartney's girlfriend at the time) in The Masque of the Red Death 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Hicksploitation Movie Night # 5 - Truck Stop Women 1974

(or Claudia Jennings Movie Night # 2 !)

"No Rig Was Too Big For Them To Handle !"

    Truck Stop Women has about everything you could want from a 70's drive-in exploitation flick - gratuitous nudity every ten minutes or so, car & truck chases, broadly drawn stereotyped characters, Claudia Jennings, violence, naked Claudia Jennings and even a cameo by soft-core queen Uschi Digard.

   The plot is pretty much the standard moonshine movie plot (big operators trying to move on on the small guys) only moved to a truck stop The story has Anna (Lieux Dressler - Kingdom of the Spiders 1977 ), who runs a truck stop in New Mexico along with her daughter Rose (Claudia Jennings). Their truck stop is a pretty busy place, along with gas a diner. we also got hijacking & stealing freight, along with a chop shop and a prostitution ring (Wow ! What a place !). And wouldn't you know it, here comes the guys from the Mafia, who are looking to move in on the action. The main mafia guy "Smith" is played by John Martino (Paulie from The Godfather 1972) - matter of fact here playing pretty much the exact same character he played in The Godfather. Rose sees this has an opportunity to also move in on her Mama and gets involved with Smith to help move things along which all leads to some really bad stuff coming down at the climax.

     Also hanging out at Anna's place are Curly (Dennis Fimple from House of 1000 Corpses), Winter (Len Lesser - Kelly's Heroes 1970 and Uncle Leo from Seinfeld) & Mac (Gene Drew - Georgia Peaches 1972 & Bobbie and the Outlaw 1976). Veteran (and very busy) TV guy Paul Carr plays Mama's double crossing partner Seago.
     Surprisingly the story is a little more downbeat & violent then expected with lots of shootings and people getting offed by various methods with most of the cast buying the farm by the end. Also there's some fairly well done chases/crashes (considering the budget) complete with some "hanging off the side of the truck" stunt work. The soundtrack is one of the more schizophrenic I've ever heard with the expected country & truckin' songs by Big Mack & The Truckstoppers, but you also get some kinda Kraftwerk like stuff via a Casio keyboard and garage band instrumentals.

  By 1974 Claudia was becoming a  pretty busy actress (in between TV & movie work, this is one of six roles from 1974), with her classic Gator Bait coming out right after Truck Stop Women.


Friday, April 19, 2013

Rosalba Neri Friday # 6 - Hercules vs. The Molock 1963

   Rosalba looking all regal and menacing in Giorgio Ferroni’s Hercules vs. The Molock (Ercole contro Molock 1963). A better then average peplum that has her playing the evil Queen Demeter of Mycenae who forces conquered neighboring kingdoms to worship her disfigured son Moloch as a god (who wears a mask that looks like a dog) by sacrificing maidens to him. Ex-Tarzan Gordon Scott plays Hercules/Glacus who allows himself to be captured as a slave to infiltrate Mycenae to hopefully overthrow Demeter and destroy Moloch.

   Thanks to some borrowed battle footage from 1961's The Trojan Horse, Hercules vs. the Moloch has a really epic look to it. The customs and set design are all better then average and the story has all sorts of interesting things lurking below the surface - especially with Rosalba's portrayal of Demeter. There's some hinted at incestuous stuff and she channels a truly evil step-mother thing right out of Snow White.
   Molock's cavern is a riot of pulsating colored lights with his hand maidens banging away on bongos and gyrating wildly away as the female sacrifices are led into him. Tim Lucas of Video Watchdog believes that Mario Bava might have worked on this uncredited (and he ought know). Any one really wanting to check out some info the whole peplum genre should check out the excellent Peplum Cinema blog.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

70's Drive-In Exploitation Babe Claudia Jennings


    To any fan of 1970's drive-in movies Claudia Jennings pretty much has to be at the top of your list for favorite actresses. Born Mary Eileen Chestertonn in St. Paul MN in 1949. In the 60's she moved out to Calif. to make it in movies and later became a part time receptionist at the offices of Playboy magazine. As things sometimes turn out she was chosen for Playboy's Miss November 1969 and later became Playmate of the Year. Her acting career soon took off and she appeared in many low budget 70's classics -  Unholy Rollers & Sisters of Death (both from 1972), The Single Girls (1973), Truck Stop Women (1974), The Great Texas Dynamite Chase (1977), Deathsport (1978) and of course 'Gator Bait from 1974. She also had a small role in Nicolas Roeg's The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) and although she did co-star in a David Cronenberg movie, it turned out to be the one David Cronenberg movie that no one knows about - 1979's Fast Company. In addition and somewhat unbelievably in the midst of her exploitation career she appeared in The Brady Bunch as Greg's manager in the famous (or infamous) "Adios, Johnny Bravo" episode.
  Although she was up for some bigger parts - TV's Wonder Woman which Lynda Carter eventually won and as Kate Jackson's replacement in Charlie's Angels (Shelly Hack beat her out for that), her career never really elevated itself to the next level to which she had hoped for. Later in life she unfortunately struggled with some personal demons and tragically in 1979 would die in an auto accident just as she was attempting to put her life in order. Her presence in films was (and still is) very much appreciated & remembered. The catch phrase for more then a few of them is - "Hey, at least it's got Claudia Jennings in it !"