Monday, December 31, 2012

Hicksploitation Movie Night # 1 - Moonshine County Express (1977)

(Plus Claudia Jennings Movie Night # 1 !)

Marcia..Marcia..Marcia !
   I've recently picked up some pretty cool movies among them a bunch of 1970's southern drive in"Hicksploitation"stuff. The first one I fired up was Moonshine County Express from 1977, co-starring Maureen McCormick (The Brady Bunch) as Sissy Hammer. Sissy is one of three sisters who vow to avenge their moonshiner daddy's death by evil town boss Jack Starkey played by William Conrad (Cannon). The other two sisters Dot & Betty are played by Claudia Jennings (Gator Bait & The Great Texas Dynamite Chase) and Susan Howard (Dallas).  Also helping out is stock car racer and "shine runner" J.B. Johnson played by John Saxon (Enter the Dragon). The wonderful thing about John Saxon is that no matter how low budget and/or crappy the movie is (and ol' John did a bunch of them) he always seems to bring his "A" game to it.
   Director Gus Trikonis did bunches of exploitation stuff in the 70's (The Student Body & Five The Hard Way among others), before moving on to TV in the 90's.

  I have to admit McCormick's presence in this was one of main reasons for being curious about this. Her southern accent does come and go, but she does look pretty darn good in cut-off shorts and a halter top.  One of the best things about these movies is that they always seem to have great supporting casts and Moonshine County Express has Jeff Cory, Albert Salmi, Morgan Woodward, Len Lesser and drive-in favorite Candice Rialson. All the usual stuff is here - tires squealing on dirt roads, Calif. locations standing in for the south and of course car chases (and crashes). A pretty decent way to spend 95 minutes and plus any movie with Maureen McCormick, Claudia Jennings and Susan Howard as redneck sisters can't be all bad - can it ??

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Seven Ups

    I love 70's New York City cop movies and The Seven Ups is one of the best of them.  The film works well in spite of a rather big fault - a rather incomprehensible plot line involving kidnapping of mobsters that seems to leave as many unanswered questions at the end as are presented in the beginning.  This being said however it does have some great performances - Roy Scheider fresh off The French Connection and just before Jaws is great as Detective Buddy Manucci and Tony Lo Bianco (a criminally under used actor) as his informant and childhood friend .  But best of all is Richard Lynch (sadly recently deceased) who plays one of the kidnappers. Lynch, with his piercing blue eyes brings a cold blooded chilly presence. Also look for stunt driver Bill Hickman as the second kidnapper and with him on board you know there's got to be a car chase. Hickman who also worked in Bullitt and The French Connection as the stunt driving coordinator orchestrates a nail biting car chase thru the streets of NYC. Also on board in the ultimate NYC charcter actor Joe Spinell (The Godfather, Taxi Driver, Rocky, Maniac).
   Director Philip D'Antoni (who produced The French Connection & Bullitt) really shows the gritty, dirty feel of 1970's NYC and their are some wonderful locations - especially the climax along some railroad tracks.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Herbert Lom 1917-2012

   Actor Herbert Lom passed away at the age of 95 on Sept. 27. Although best known to most people as  Chief Inspector Dreyfus in the Pink Panther movies,he had a long and varied career in films almost exclusively as a second lead or character actor.  His portrayals of Captain Nemo in 1961's Mysterious Island and title role in Hammer's 1962 Phantom of the Opera are both vivid childhood memories for me. He is also wonderful in 1955's The Ladykillers and one of my favorites Hell Drivers from 1957 with Stanley Baker. 
    He was born Herbert Karel Angelo Kuchačevič ze Schluderpacheru in Prague and fled to England in 1939 to escape the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia.  He will be missed.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Rosalba Neri News # 8

  Camera Obscura has updated their Facebook page with some more information about their release of Top Sensation (now scheduled for March 2013). A couple of new extras for the 2 disc set are interviews with Rosalba (who still looks very lovely) and co-star Salvatore Puntillo. Hopefully they'll also hook up with Edwige Fenech. Also up is some screen grabs from their restoration work on it and it looks pretty darn good, to say the least. Here's a couple of samples.

Little Fauss & Big Halsey

     Little Fauss & Big Halsey is the one Robert Redford film, that most people have never heard off (and Robert Redford hopes you never do). Released in 1970 and starring Redford & Michael J. Pollard as two motorcycle racers wondering the American west. Although marketed as a "motorcycle movie", it more of a character study of people who happen to ride motorcycles. Robert Redford, (in his best role IMO), plays Halsey Knox. Knox is a no good thief and liar who uses people and treats his various girlfriends with contempt, but Redford makes us want to root for this guy and makes us actually feel sorry for him by the end of the movie. Pollard plays Fauss and brings his usual kind of dim child like wonder and awe. Pollard gets criticism from some film fans, but I think he's a wonderful character actor who always somehow manages to steal the scenes he's in. Watch him in Bonnie & Clyde to really get a sense of this. It's fascinating to watch Fauss slowly pick up some of Knox's character traits while at the same time realizing what kind of person Knox really is. Rumor as it that Redford and Pollard didn't get along all that great on the set which only adds to their relationship in the movie.
   Also in the cast is Lauren Hutton (in her second film role - and what an entrance she has) as hitchhiker Rita Nebraska who joins up with the pair and wonderful turns by Noah Berry Jr. and Lucille Benson as Fauss's parents. Directed by Sidney J. Furie, who had an incredible career (check out my earlier Dr. Bloods Coffin post) and a soundtrack by Johnny Cash.

  Sadly neglected (never even released) on home video, most of the copies floating around are from the same source which I believe is a Cinemax showing from the early 90's which totally destroys the beautiful widescreen photography of Ralph Woolsey. Rumor has it that a letterboxed print turned up on Speedvision years ago, but nothing to confirm that has surfaced. The story is is that this popped up on T.V. all over the place after the wake of Redfords's success in All The Presidents Men and he had Paramount pretty much bury it, as he hates his role in this movie.  My OTHER favorite Redford movie is The Hot Rock (which rumor has it, he also hates -go figure).  The Hot Rock is now available on DVD, so maybe there's hope yet. Olive Films has been releasing Paramount catalog titles on DVD and Blu, so lets start emailing 'em.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

R.G. Armstrong 1917-2012

  Character actor (and playwright) R.G. Armstrong passed away on July 27. Born in 1971 and perhaps best known for his work with director Sam Peckinpah, he was a familiar face to western movie fans. He attended the University of North Carolina and along with classmate Andy Griffith he acted on stage with the Carolina Playmakers.  I especially  liked him as the sheriff in Race With The Devil. He will be missed.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Happy Birthday Mario Bava

  Born on this day in 1914 (and passed away in 1980), the great Italian director of such classics as Black Sunday, Hercules in the Haunted World , Blood & Black Lace and my favorite KIll Baby KIll. . With the Redemption/Kino announced Bava Blu-ray's starting to come coming out this fall this is a good time to be a Bava fan.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Rosalba Neri News # 7 - Buon Compleanno !!

 Born on this day in 1939 and a very special birthday wish for the queen of Italian cinema.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Happy Birthday to the Drive-In

 On this day in 1933 the first drive-in theatre opened in Camden N.J.  At their height of their popularity in the early 1960's there were approx. 4000 , now it is estimated only about 370 exist. Here's a photo of the local drive-in (and the title of this blog)were I grew up outside of Detroit, Mi. I went here as a kid with my Dad (to see double features like The French Connection & The Seven Ups) and later as a teenager to see stuff like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Happy Birthday Christopher Lee & Peter Cushing

  A belated Happy Birthday to Christopher Lee (May 27 1922) & Peter Cushing (May 26 1913).  Cushing passed away in 1994, but Christopher Lee is still going (and working in movies) at the age of 90. Close friends in life they appeared in 22 movies together starting with Hamlet in 1948 and all the way thru 1983's House of Long Shadows.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Rosalba Neri News # 6

 A bit late with this but Mondo Macabro recently released American exploitation director William Rose's  1973 Italian thriller The Girl in Room 2A which features Rosalba in a supporting role.  A pretty decent example of 70's explotation Italian cinema this movie has a little bit of everything - horror, mystery and of course gore and nudity. The film doesn't have a lot of the great stylistic flourish that was in the better gaillo from this period, but does have a couple memorable moments.
  It stars former Mrs. Italy Daniela Giordana, who is also featured in an interview on the disc extras.  Producer Dick Randall was also behind Don't Open Till Christmas (also from Mondo Macabro) and the infamous slasher Pieces.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Carroll Baker In Italy

  I've always loved this still of Carroll Baker and Erika Blanc from Umberto Lenzi's So Sweet....So Preverse (1969). In the 60's following a legal battle with Paramont Studios and a divorce from her husband Baker settled in Italy and appeared in a number of sexy/giallo thrillers including The Sweet Body of Deborah (1968), The Devil Has Seven Faces (1971) ,Baby Yaga (1973) and the above mentioned So Sweet...So Preverse.  She even did some nude scenes.
  She did two more movies for Lenzi in 1969. Orgasmo was released in the U.S. as Paranoia and the second one for Lenzi was titled Paranoia, so that was released in the U.S. under the title of A Quiet Place To Kill (kinda confusing).  Baby Yaga was recently released by Blue Underground ,however the rest of Carroll's Italian "oeuvre" is hard to find on legit releases, but is floating around "out there".
  Years ago I got the chance to meet Carroll at a Chiller Convention in NJ. I had brought my copy of Blood & Black Lace : The Definitive Guide to Italian Sex & Horror Movies for her to sign. I kind of cautiously approached her with it as I had heard she wasn't all together comfortable with some of her work during that period. To my delight she happily signed a picture of a lobby card from So Sweet...So Perverse and laughing said "I can't believe somebody did a book on those" !  She was a very nice lady.

Big Heat Blu

  Twilight Time has just released Fritz Lang's 1953 noir The Big Heat on blu. Limited to 3000 copies and features a great nasty bad guy performance by Lee Marvin.  Also with the always wonderful Gloria Graham.  What Marvin does to Graham with a hot coffee pot still packs a jolt to this day. Plus you gotta love that cover.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Happy Birthday Jayne Mansfield

 Born on this day in 1933 the ultimate sex bomb/pinup (in my opinion) and actress in such classics as The Girl Can't Help it (classic scene with the milk bottles), Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter. Hell on Frisco Bay and The Wayward Bus (for which she won a Golden Globe). In 1963's Promises! Promises ! she was the first major American star to appear in a movie nude scene. The photos were printed in Playboy magazine and resulted in an obscenity charge for Hugh Hefner. Also starred with husband Mickey Hargitay in 1960's The Loves of Hercules (AKA Hercules vs. The Hydra). She was killed in an automobile accident in 1967.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

2000 Hits !!

Just passed hit 2000 on the blog !  What better way to celebrate then with a still featuring the great Sterling Hayden in Stanley Kubrick's classic 1956 film noir The Killing.

Rosalba Neri News # 5

German DVD label Camera Obscura has just released some VERY exciting news - the release of Ottavio Alessi's 1969 classic Italian sleazefest Top Sensation aka The Seducers starring Rosalba Neri and Edwige Fenech.

  This will be the first legit release on home video. It's been floating around on various bootleg tapes and DVDr's for years, the Something Weird VHS release is still one of my prized tapes I've hung on to over the years. No word yet on extras or length. As this as surfaced in several different cuts - more dialogue, more/less nudity, alternate scenes, it will be interesting to see what Camera Obscura puts together.  The English version (released by SWV) is the most explicit, while a German print adds an extra subplot and a Spanish version recently appeared that is less explicit, with different takes of some scenes.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Rosalba Neri News # 4

Il Plenilunio Delle Vergini (The Devils Wedding Night 1973) comes out on DVD in Italy on April 3.  As reported in a previous post this was shown last year in beautiful transfer on Italian TV.  It has been available for awhile as a region 1 DVD as part of Elvira's Movie Macabre series. The Elvira DVD  is widescreen (but non anamprphic) and the print looks like it was used as a doormat. If the Italian TV print is any indication this is going to look beautiful.  Rosalba rising out of the blood filled coffin will be a sight to behold.  The new Italian DVD will likely just have Italian audio and no english subs.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Quatermass And The Pit Blu

   One thing that Hammer's Quatermass and the Pit (U.S. 5 Million Years to Earth 1967) cannot be accused of is not having enough ideas to flesh out its plot. A heady mix of gothic horror, sci fi , martians and the occult, with the whole moving along at at breathless pace. A superb example of England's Hammer studio at the height of their powers during their "second wind" of the mid to late sixties. With a great cast cast including Andrew Keir , Barbara Shelly (who were both earlier in Dracula Prince of Darkness - also to be released on blu-ray in a short while), James Donald (The Great Escape) and Julian Glover (Indiana Jones & The Last crusade).
   Recently released on blu-ray in England by Studio Canal, this looks beautiful.  The almost luminous greens of the martian "locusts" and the simmering purples of the sealed chamber of the spacecraft are something to behold. Along with beautiful grain and flesh tones this is a great disc and sure excuse to get a region free player (as its B locked). Included is the commentsary with screenwriter Nigel Kneale and director Roy Ward Baker  held over from the old Anchor bay DVD plus interviews with Julian Glover, Mark Gatiss, Judith Kerr, Kim Newman, Marcus Hearn and Joe Dante. Last but certainly not least the gorgeous Barbara Shelly in hi def is definite plus.

Here's a neat shot of Barbara the set

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Couple Birthdays Today.......

  First off a happy birthday today to Rod Taylor born as this day in 1929. One of my favorite actors and star of such classics as The Time Machine, Dark Of The Sun , The Birds and countless others. Recently he appeared in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds as Winston Churchill. I thought this was a cool picture of Rod, Janes Russell and Glenn Ford relaxing on the set of Fate is the Hunter from 1964.

   Also born is this day in 1886 was the George Zucco, one of greatest "mad doctors" from the golden age of horror. He appeared in 96 films from 1931 -1951 and passed away in 1960.  Among them were all three of the Universal mummy sequels - The Mummy's Hand (1940) Tomb (1942) and Ghost (1944) ,playing the high priest who possessed the secret of the tana leaves for reviving the Mummy.

"Three of the leaves . . . make enough fluid to keep Kharis' heart beating, one each night during the cycle of the full moon.  Nine leaves each night to give life and movement to Kharis; thus you will enable him to bring vengeance on the heads of those who try to enter the tomb.  More than that, he would become an uncontrollable monster, a soulless demon with a desire to kill and kill."