Friday, June 27, 2014

Hicksploitation Movie Night # 9 - Angie Dickinson & POLICE WOMAN 1975

Season 2 Episode 9  BLAZE OF GLORY
Original Air Date Nov. 11 1975

Angie as Sgt. "Pepper" Anderson goes undercover as a prostitute and gets taken prisoner by a trio of white trash bank robbers - including a shotgun totin' Don Stroud !

    Although today a well known screen and television icon, back in the early 70's Angie Dickinson was probably most famous for being the on again/off again wife of pop songwriter Burt Bacharach. Because of her daughter's illness she had turned down many roles in the 60's but did seem to have an unquestionable knack for appearing in movies that while maybe not being critical or audience favorites at the time have grown in stature over the years. Whether in films that while not critical lauded at the time have now become regraded as American classics (RIO BRAVO), or as nowadays hip (OCEANS 11) or gained cult status over the years (John Borman's psychedelic neo-noir POINT BLANK and Don Siegel's too violent for TV remake of THE KILLERS) and even with some rather unknown gems still waiting to be discovered (such as THE OUTSIDE MAN) you gotta admit she does have one cool resume.

   In 1974 a couple of serendipitous things happened to her career-wise as first off she accepted a role in Roger Corman's BIG BAD MAMA which turned out to be a gigantic hit and partly because of the success of POLICE WOMAN ran for several years on the drive-in/exploitation circuit (costing around $400,000 to produce it eventually grossed more then $5,000,000). Playing a depression era Texas widow who along with her two young daughters embarks a bank robbing spree, the 43 year old Dickinson caused a stir by appearing naked in several scenes (including full frontal) along with a post Star Trek William Shatner. Upon viewing its obvious that Angie is having a blast in the role and to her credit she has never shied away from it and to this day proudly states she was glad to show off her body. The success of BIG BAD MAMA and POLICE WOMAN would lead to her unforgettable role in Brian De Palma's DRESSED TO KILL from 1980.

   Earlier in the same year as BIG BAD MAMA she had appeared in an episode of the NBC anthology TV series POLICE STORY titled "The Gamble" where she played police woman Lisa Beaumont who goes undercover to bust up a gambling ring. The pilot was well received and it was decided to go ahead as a series with the debut episode premiering on the 13th of Sept. - which in a bit of lucky publicity (perhaps seen to by Corman) timed nicely with the Sept. 19 opening of BIG BAD MAMA. For the TV series her superior Lt. Bill Crowley was played by Earl Holliman (probably most familiar at the time from THE SONS OF KATIE ELDER) who was wisely replacing game show host Bert Convy from the pilot and her fellow officers (as in the pilot) were played by Ed Bernard (ACROSS 110TH STREET) and as one of the most unlikely hippies ever was Charles Dierkop (THE STING). Angie's proper first name in the series (she's referred to as "Pepper"or "Pep") is listed as Suzanne in NBC sources, but is also heard as Leanne a couple of times in the first two seasons.

    Running for four seasons POLICE WOMAN was massively popular, with even President Ford arranging his schedule (and supposedly canceling a press conference) around it and a line of toys was produced by Horsman including a 9" Angie Dickinson doll complete with many fashion choices. During its run POLICE WOMAN was always something of a schizophrenic proposition (that continues to this day in regards to its legacy) as seemingly wanting to juggle presenting an empowered strong central female character in a police drama while at the same time looking for excuses to get Angie into skimpy (or almost no) clothing as often as possible. It was the first hour long network drama to have a female as a central character and quite possibly laid the groundwork for WONDER WOMAN and CHARLIE'S ANGELS (both in terms of strong female characters & 70's "jiggle" TV) and the argument can even be made for the later CAGNEY AND LACEY.
   The show seemed to fall into a pattern with about every 3rd episode presenting some opportunity for TV friendly exploitation with Angie going undercover as a prostitute, bikini model, female gym teacher etc. and most unforgettably as a go-go dancer in the season one episode BLAST (complete with a slimy performance by Robert Vaughan as a club owner). Like most 70's TV police shows it came under fire at various times for its violence content and when viewed today some of it still seems pretty startling for the time including beatings, shootings (shotguns seeming to be favorite) with Earl Holliman in particular racking up a pretty impressive body count. The opening credits neatly juxtapose the sex and violence with shots of Angie's legs and bust alternating with shootings, fights and a set of brass knuckles flying toward the viewer (complete with the classic 70's "freeze frame" to introduce the characters).

    Season two's episode BLAZE OF GLORY is an almost perfect example of everything that made POLICE WOMAN great and what's most fascinating (to me at least) is that the plot and atmosphere both seem to be something straight out of a 70's drive-in movie (bloody shootings, attempted rape, shotguns, a sweaty desert setting and Don Stroud) with a basic story line and characters that could have been taken from an Arthur Marks production (just add Tiffany Bolling and some more sex and violence). Watching it today its still kind of amazing what they could get away with on 70's network television (especially considering it being a weekly show).
  Starting off (naturally) with Angie doing some undercover work as a prostitute while Det. Styles (Ed Bernard) keeps a watch from his fully pimped out Cadillac (which amazingly enough matches Angie's purple outfit perfectly). After knocking off for the day she stops by her bank to cash a check (still in her hooker's stakeout garb) and walks straight into a bank robbery being perpetrated by a magnificently sleazy trio consisting of the Okie shitkicker Lightfoot brothers - Vern played by the great Don Stroud (JOE KIDD and various biker flicks) and Charlie Joe (William Lucking - the mean dude from tons of TV shows) along with Vern's girlfriend Laurene (Nellie Bellflower - "The Lone Stripper" from HAPPY DAYS). With Angie in tow the gang runs off to the desert, after first switching vehicles in a car wash (?? )- which does necessitate Angie getting soaking wet and having to change into a pair of daisy dukes in the back of the getaway van.


   As almost the entire episode takes place in the van that gives it a great sweaty claustrophobic feeling as Angie turns on the country girl charm as she flirts with the somewhat dim-witted Charlie Joe, beats off a horny Don Stroud, plus gets into a couple of fights with Laurene and even gets to "flip the bird" at one point ! Vern continually laments about wanting to go out in a "blaze of glory" like his hero Clyde Barrow of Bonnie and Clyde fame, as we even a get a country song added to soundtrack stating this fact. The episode features several bloody shootings (including the perennial favorite shotgun) and the whole thing plays out like a little 50 minute drive-in movie. It's even got an appearance by rubbery faced character actor Phil Leeds as a hapless salesman.
   POLICE WOMAN first season was put out by Sony back in 2006 that included some interesting commentary's by Angie on a few of the episodes and later in 2012 Shout Factory did the second season, but nothings been seen of the final two seasons.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014


Blood Island Movie Night # 2

Lusting for Women It Terrified the Land !

A Brutal Orgy of Ghastly Terror !

   1968's BRIDES OF BLOOD was the first in the trilogy of "official" Blood Island movies (or second in the quadrilogy if you count 1959's TERROR IS A MAN or to make it even more confusing its second in the pentalogy if want to include BRAIN OF BLOOD from 1972) and is the movie that really kicked the Filipino exploitation market into high gear. Produced in the Philippines by Hemisphere Pictures and director Eddie Romero BRIDES was distributed in America by Al Adamson and Sam Sherman's Independent-International Pictures with a nifty promo that had plastic wedding rings handed out to lucky female patrons. BRIDES along with its followups MAD DOCTOR OF BLOOD ISLAND and BEAST OF BLOOD were re-tilted and re-leased numerous times (GRAVE DESIRES and TERROR OF TIKI ISLAND among them ) before being sold to TV were they were more often then not shown uncut (which was undoubtedly quite a surprise to many young horror fans) by local stations who were not use to checking horror films for content.

   Although sharing the same island setting as the next two films BRIDES features an altogether different monster then MAD DOCTOR's famous "chlorophyll man" however the movie's basic premise is the same as a group of outsiders show up despite warnings from the boat captain and run afoul of a rampaging Filipino monster. John "Mr. Blood Island" Ashley accepted this role (and would star in the subsequent sequels) after his divorce from his Beach Party co-star Deborah Walley and would stick around in the Philippines becoming a successful producer before heading back to America where he produced THE A-TEAM.
   Scientist Dr. Paul Henderson (former Hollywood "B" lister and future Al Adamson "A" lister Kent Taylor) arrives on Blood Island along with his dishy and perpetually horny wife Carla (played by stripper and low budget actress Beverly Powers - here going by her stage name "Beverly Hills") and Beach Party alumnus John Ashley as Peace Corp worker Jim Farrell. Naturally their forewarned by their boat captain about setting foot on the island and once there are warned by the leader of the local village and his daughter Alma (very busy Filipino actress Eva Darren) that villagers have returned to "the old ways" which they seem to get a sample of straight off as a burial a sea is interrupted by some dismembered limbs tumbling out of the coffin.


   Dr. Henderson has arrived on the island to study the effects of lingering radiation from the nearby earlier atomic bomb tests (while his wife throws herself at any available man) and Peace Corp worker Jim has come to show the locals irrigation and crop rotation. The effects of radiation are noticed in the form of huge man eating plants that come to life only at night along with a petrified mutated land crab and a large butterfly/moth thing that bites (along with one other BIG aftereffect lurking around). In regards to the locals reverting back to "the old ways" they've also started holding a lottery and picking out a couple of young female virgins (which seeing how they do this every night makes you wonder how long it can go on) which they then stake out if front of a wonderfully cheesy looking altar, rip off their clothes, fire up some purple and red smoke pots and then wait for "the evil one" to appear. Much has been written about "the evil one('s)" appearance as it is one of the most ludicrously wonderful monster designs ever to come down the pike. Most often described as the "The Michelin Man" it always looked more like to me as a relative of Tabanga from 1957's FROM HELL IT CAME (or if you gave a five year old some play-doh and ask him to make a monster).


    Another Blood Island resident is Esteban Powers (Mario Montenagro) who lives in a large mansion (later used by Ronald Remy in MAD DOCTOR and BEAST) who has as his assistant the bald-headed and scary looking Bruno Punzalan (who was in about every Filipino exploitation movie) and a whole bunch of little people scurrying around as his servants. Along with his irrigation & crop rotation classes John Ashley has been keenly watching Alma and as she unfortunately draws the winning ticket in the nightly sacrifice a virgin lottery this forces him to spring into action and rescue her which incurs the wrath of the villagers. Scampering thru the man eating tree infested jungle they along with Dr. Henderson and his wife take shelter in Esteban's house. Which as it turns out isn't that great of an idea and necessitates Carla prowling about in her black negligee (which she thoughtfully packed for her trip to Blood Island).
    As I stated in my earlier entry for MAD DOCTOR OF BLOOD ISLAND , although undeniably cheap & shoddy looking the Blood Island movies are all vastly entertaining and there is an undeniable charm about them. Because of the primitive filming conditions there's a real grunginess about them as you can almost feel the humidity and smell the dank rotting jungles. For anybody interested in these movies (and all facets of the Filipino exploitation industry) please check out Mark Hartley's excellent documentary MACHETE MAIDENS UNLEASHED.