Monday, January 30, 2017

DEATH GAME 1977

aka THE SEDUCERS and MR. MANNING'S WEEKEND

"The Object is to Stay Alive"


"Donna and Jackie. Every Man's Fantasy. One Man's Nightmare"



     Opening with a bit of grim bit of hyperbole as a screen crawl reads "This motion picture is based on a true story. It should serve to remind us that fate allows no man to insulate himself against the evil which pervades our society" , this bizarre and unsettling slice of 70's psycho-sexual exploitation got a bit of press awhile back when in 2015 Eli Roth wrote and directed a remake titled KNOCK KNOCK starring Keanu Reeves. 
     Directed by Peter S. Traynor, DEATH GAME was released in 1977 and stars Sandra Locke (who was in the midst of her professional and personal relationship with Clint Eastwood at the time) and a no holds barred performance by the wonderful Colleen Camp (THE SWINGING CHEERLEADERS and VALLEY GIRL) along with the still busy character actor Seymour Cassel (CONVOY) - and who sports a pretty impressive porn-stash here. 
     Floating around initially as a project in Eastwood's Malpaso production company (which probably explains the presence of Locke) it was picked up independent producer Larry Spiegel who along with director Traynor was also responsible for the mishmash train wreck that is 1977's EVIL TOWN. Written by one and done screenwriters Anthony Overman & Michael Ronald Ross (which might well be pseudonyms for Spiegel & Traynor), playing out like a plot straight out of a Penthouse letter gone horribly wrong its an intriguing piece of low budget film making that combines some unnerving sequences and an improvisational theatre performance. 
     Opening with a bizarre upbeat song called "Dear Old Dad", the ditty plays out over the main credits which are composed of a child's crayon drawings of home and family life, were introduced to George Manning (Cassel) who with his wife and child away from home is spending a quiet weekend alone immersed in his upper middle class San Francisco abode in all its dark paneling and shag carpeting 70's grooviness.




     Locke and Camp playing respectively Agatha (although referred to as Jackie in the print ads and called by her last name Jackson frequently in the movie) and Donna are two rain soaked young hippie girls who in the pretext of getting lost on the way to a party show up at the doorstep of George. Initially letting the pair in to use his phone the two girls put forth an air of innocence at first, but there is something underlying creepy about the pair as Agatha forcefully barges into the house while the child-like & wide-eyed Donna follows in her wake. Sitting by the fire they begin messing with his tricked out hi-fi system and humongous aquarium and later retire upstairs to dry and wait "until their ride shows up".
     After a bit George goes upstairs and finds them engaged in flagrante delicto in his hot tub.  Hesitant at first he succumbs to the ol' male urging and jumps in to join them and by engaging in this ultimate male fantasy he sets himself up literately for a trip through hell in his own house. Thinking they've left during the night, the next morning  he finds the two girls in the kitchen messily making breakfast while throwing food about, smearing syrup throughout the house and greedily wolfing their food down (sans utensils) like animals. 
     Becoming increasingly irritated at the pair, George sees his control of the situation rapidly eroding as he witnesses his middle class lifestyle being dragged down into madness when  Agatha informs George of their underage status (17 & 15 !) and demand money in lieu of going to the police and Donna prances about  claiming shes in love and wants to be with him forever.  Finally getting them to the bus station, George arrives home and finds the pair encamped back at his home whereupon things get really bizarre as the tie him to his bed and torture him for the remainder of the weekend as they plaster the poor sap with food and various household products. Locke paints her face and prances about in his wife's clothes while Camp screams continuously "daddy" to him (which brings to mind all sorts of creepy things).  




    Through its 91 minute running time the film slowly descends more and more into chaos and nightmare with the climax going totally unhinged with a fractured disjointed sound scape and claustrophobic closeups as George is put on trial by the girls for his "sins". The plot while simple in its basic execution is fascinating as its told entirely through the lone males eyes. We get no back story on the the two women and they're only seen by George (and us) first as an object of his male fantasy and later as its ultimate nightmare when his middle class lifestyle & family life are destroyed by members of a rebellious younger generation (i.e. hippies) of which even the young and appearing innocent ones are to be feared.
    Although letting his carnal instincts take over (however it can be believed that he was a dead duck as soon as he opened the front door), George is shown to be a caring loving family man as a brief montage in the beginning shows him clearly in love with his wife and later he has a tender conversation on the phone with his son. 




    Locke was 29 at the time and Camp 22 (playing 17 & 15 ) and in all her roles Locke brought a certain other worldly weirdness to her characters that could be alternately fascinating or sometimes irritating (or even downright unintentionally hilarious) and she uses all these attributes to her advantage here and I think this can easily be seen to be her finest role. With her spacey wide-eyed gaze she brings a real creepiness to her character (especially in the films climax when she paints her face), but its Camp who steals the show here.
    A very natural actress who always brought a real earthiness to her roles, Camp (who happily is still very much active to this day both as an actress and producer) is truly frightening here going from innocence to full bore psychotic (much of her screaming duologue in the climax seems to be ad-libbed) and in spite of Locke coming across as the main protagonist, its Camp's Donna whose the most unnerving. 
   She was a favorite print ad model in the 70's (always seeming to wear a red bikini) and was one of the three playmates (Camp is "Mrs. May") in APOCALYPSE NOW. Colleen has a pretty amazing list of screen credits including (in addition to those listed above) THE GUMBALL RALLY,  Bruce Lee's GAME OF DEATH and and a wonderfully touching performance paired with Frederic Forrest as Deborah Foreman's hippie parents in VALLEY GIRL. 











Colleen Camp showing us why Doug Throley Headers are the best !

Friday, January 27, 2017

Rosalba Neri News # 23 - 88 Films AMUCK ! Blu-Ray

   

    Some good news from 88 Films as they've posted some news concerning the Blu-ray release of Silvio Amadio's trippy and perverse 1972 gaillo AMUCK ! (aka ALLA RICERCA DEL PIACERE). Starring this blogs favorite actress along with Barbara Bouchet and Farley Granger, it's one of the best Italian giallos of the 70's and is my personal favorite Rosalba role. According to 88 Films over on their Facebook page, the film passed the BBFC uncut with "strong sex, nudity and sexual violence" (how 'bout that !).
   Amazon UK has the pre-order up with a Feb. 27th release date and a Camera Obscura release will follow up in March. Both will feature new HD transfers from the original camera negative along with both the uncompressed Italian and English mono soundtracks and newly created English subs -which means you can toss those old bootlegs in the trash. The 88 Films release will feature an interview with Barbara while the Camera Obscura release will have the participation of Rosalba (with presumably more extra features to follow).
     With a release later this year of LADY FRANKENSTEIN from Nucleus Films and the recent release of Blue Underground's 99 WOMEN these are truly wonderful times we live if your a Euro-cult (and Rosalba !) fan.
     Awhile back I did a post on AMUCK ! based upon the old grungy Eurovista quasi-bootleg DVD that features a dead center cropped transfer and that sickly green/yellow tint to everything. Below are some screen caps from 88's new transfer that were posted on their Facebook page. I'm tingling with anticipation for this release.








Tuesday, January 17, 2017

SASQUATCH THE LEGEND OF BIGFOOT 1977

Classic 70's Bigfoot-sploitation Mayhem !!


"The Incredible Story Of Seven Men Who Defied Death In A Primitive Wilderness Where 
No Man Had Gone Before.... And Survived To Tell The Story Of This Legendary Creature !"




     One of the almost countless Bigfoot themed movies that proliferated in the 1970's (and even into the 80's...) 1977's SASQUATCH that because of its "G" was one of those ones that seemed to constantly show up on late night TV and more recently has appeared in seemingly every one of those "Bigfoot" themed budget DVD collections.
     Sasquatch movies could go the the total exploitation route such as 1980's gore-fest NIGHT OF THE DEMON or the aptly titled BEAUTIES AND THE BEAST (which screams out for a legit release) in which Uschi Digard and her hippie friends are menaced by a peeping tom obsessed Bigfoot or go with the scientific/docu-drama plot such as here (the route that 1972's  THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK took and it was this film that become ground zero for the 70's Bigfoot phenomenon). Some such as 1976's CREATURE FROM BLACK LAKE tried to combine a bit both the scientific and the drive-in exploitation atmosphere.
     Presenting itself as a narrated documentary style plot with the narration played out during the course of the film it purports to show an expedition to fictional Peckatoe River in British Columbia (actually filmed around Bend, OR.) in order the track down and electronically tag (!) the legendary creature.  Opening with a JAWS inspired POV shot as a heavily breathing large creature moves through the forest as the soundtrack plays ominously (which you'd think if John Williams would ever hear it would sent him scrambling to speed dial his lawyer). We're then treated to a hyperbole filled 60 Minutes- like prologue which gives us a brief history of  Bigfoot legend and lore which cumulates in the Patterson-Gimlin footage from 1967.



     Showing us the HQ of the impressively named "North American Wildlife Research Center" where expedition head (who also narrates the film) Chuck Evans (screenplay writer George Lauris) feeds all known data concerning Sasquatch into punch card computer where it magically spits out a line drawing in the exact same pose as the Patterson film and points to exact location in Canada where Bigfoot(s) are likely to be found !
     Heading up to"Canada" we're then introduced the rest of the expedition all of whom make up a bulls-eye of stock characters including the semi-hippie and Sasquatch scientist Dr. Paul Markham (William Emmons), noble and stoic Native American guide Techka Blackhawk (Joel Morello), a crusty curmudgeon old trapper Josh "Aloysius" (Ken Kenzie) - complete with his mule "Ted", serious & steel-eyed cowboy/ wrangler Hank Parshall (Steve Boergadine), bumbling cook (and comic relief) Barney Snipe (Jim Bradford) and skeptical NYC reporter Bob Vernon (Lou Salerni - who seems to be trying to imitate Jack Nicholson here). The cast is fascinating only for the fact that except for screenwriter/lead actor George Lauris this seems to be their only acting credit.
     On horseback the group begins their trek into the wilderness and for the next chunk of the plot we're shown panoramic views of mountainous wilderness and various Disney-like wildlife footage including grizzly bears fighting, nursing wolf cubs, ice sliding badgers and comic relief with cook Barney chasing a raccoon out his tent.
     In an attempt to ramp up the tension a bit (and remind us that we're not watching Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom) a cougar attacks the pack horses which is shot (of which the men ruefully agree "had to be done") and the whiny reporter from New "Yawk" gets mauled by a grizzly. They're two historical encounters with Sasquatch shown (as narrated by mountain-man Josh) including the 1924 attack on some miners and an 19th century encounter by a two trappers named Bauman and Jessep which was later recorded by Theodore Roosevelt in his book The Wilderness Hunter.




     At one point they make a crossing of the "dangerous Peckatoe River" and film's atmosphere attempts to draw the viewer in with a more ominous tone as Tecka intones ancient Native American legends and the group is beset by mysterious rockfalls, discover huge trees snapped off (which we're told is how the Sasquatch marks his territories) and the film cuts to pov shots of something peering through trees. Eventually entering a large valley which is their final destination they hear howling at night and discover large footprints. The group sets up an elaborate system of electric buzzers around the camp and soon the movie reaches the climax that we had all been waiting for - the hairy beast (albeit mostly in shadows) stalking through the nighttime camp causing much destruction and mayhem while tossing plastic rocks about.
     The sweeping vistas of mountain ranges and long shots of endless forested landscape give the film an almost epic-like grander that sets it apart from other genre efforts and although the travelogue footage drags a bit during the first 3/4 of the running time it does give the feeling of an actual journey with changing landscape into the remote wilderness with the anticipated climatic attack worth the wait (although full disclosure here - I'm a sucker for Bigfoot movies). The cast is likable if somewhat bland (especially in the case of lead George Lauris) with the broad stereotypes given each character sometimes invoking unintentional humor.
    The soundtrack is composed of gentle country rock style instrumentals (in keeping with the the mountain scenery and 70's feel hereabouts you keep expecting John Denver to pop in warbling away in the background) and it comes complete with a closing theme song ("There in God's country, he just wants to be left alone...")
     Long a murky DVD bargain bin staple SASQUATCH THE LEGEND OF BIGFOOT recently got a Blu-ray release (Who'd a thunk it ?!?) from Code Red that contains a nice anamorphic print from 35mm with just a bit of wear and a few splices.
     The closing of the film invites theater attendees to pick up further Bigfoot information in the lobby and gives an address to send for additional material. Sign me up !









All Above Screen Caps Are From The Code Red Blu-Ray