Thursday, February 28, 2013

Hicksploitation Movie Night # 4 - Texas Lightning 1981

    A pretty deranged performance from Cameron Mitchell is the main feature of this Gary Graver directed (which he also wrote  & shot) effort from 1981. Graver was a pretty busy guy in the 70's & 80's , serving as DP on tons of low budget exploitation fare while at the same time directing bunches of porn movies (right in the midst of making this) - which makes you wonder if this kinda mainstream cast was aware of that.  After making Moonshine Express in 1977 (see earlier post) , it looks like Maureen McCormick wanted to to  break out even more from The Brady Bunch - so she here she is in a slightly more sleazier role.
   Cameron Mitchell plays Karl Stover who believing that his son Buddy Owen (played by Mitchell's real life son Cameron Jr.) isn't turning out to be quite the man he should be decides to take him out for a weekend of hunting. After a rather awkward good bye to Mrs. Stover (Hope Holiday), where its not too subtly referenced that maybe there's something more to Buddy and Moms relationship, the guys head out.  Along for the ride are Karl's buddies Frank Whitman (veteran character actor Peter Jason) and Leonard Simpson (J.L. Clark). On the way there in Leonard's monster truck they throw empty beer cans out the window and chew twinkies with their mouth open.

    After arriving and a drunken day of hunting rabbits & squirrels (and insulting a black policeman) the men don their satin cowboy shirts and head off to local country & western bar for some fun and urban cowboy action. This bar sequence lasts WAY too long and might be the result of the producers making Graver go back and shot more scenes to make the movie a little funnier (and to lose the downbeat ending - more on that later).  At the bar there is a wet t-shirt contest (with Graver playing the MC), which also features a cameo appearance by veteran porn actress Lisa De Leeuw (who not surprisingly wins the contest). At the bar Buddy meets a waitress named Fay (McCormick) and later they head back to Buddy's motel room. Turns out Fay's a kind of hustler as she cons Buddy out of $20.00 before they hit the hay. Their bliss is soon interrupted by the two drunken idiots Frank & Leonard who attack Fay, while Buddy runs off to his dad.

   They then head to the wild for more drunken hunting (Frank throws beans all over Leonard for a bit of comic relief). Buddy now starts acting strangely - silently glaring, loading his gun, strapping on a knife and looking likes he's all ready to go Lord of the Flies on the rest of the group.  Its at this point that movie loses whatever tension it was building toward. Graver had filmed this sequence originally with Buddy finally snapping and blasting one (or more) Dad's redneck buddies, instead this entire sequence was re-shot and other scenes added to lighten the movie up a little bit - as can be seen in the poster design. In this the released ending Buddy fires a few shots into the ground to scare everybody, confronts his dad and then heads back to the bar to apologize to Fay (who's sitting alone on the stage sing a C&W song - shades of The Brady Bunch Variety Hour).

   Even with the compromised ending the whole movie still has a slightly grimy vibe to it. There was a fair amount of publicity around this at the time for McCormick's alleged nude scene (which never really happens - thanks to a strategically placed hand).  Graver's original version has been rumored to have appeared on video in Europe, but all we have for now is the "happy" version on an OOP DVD (which I think was just a copy of the old Media VHS).

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Sleazy Horror Mags Tuesday

     After success of Jim Warren's B&W horror magazines Creepy & Eerie, cheaper and more lurid titles started appearing on the newsstands. With their wild & gory covers ("told in chilling picto-fiction") these were kinda like the exploitation movies of the magazine world. The best (or most infamous) of these publishers was Eerie Publishing, run by its gun-toting editor Myron Fass, who's titles included Weird, Horror Tales, Terror Tales, Tales from the Tomb, Tales of Voodoo, and Witches' Tales and dozens (if not hundreds) of one-shots on various subjects.
   Most of the artists who worked on these were uncredited although Marvel guys Dick Ayers and Chic Stone both contributed stories. Mixed in with the new stories were reprints of old pre-code horror comics (usually with more blood and gore added in).
  This is a great book on the history of Eerie Publications & Myron Fass and the author Mike Howlett has a Facebook page with lots of art.

  And here is a really cool animated You Tube video put together by Jason Willis done with Eerie Publications art and a soundtrack from the old Johnson Smith novelty horror record.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Night of the Juggler 1980

    A neat, tight little film that unfortunately is pretty much forgotten today, director Robert Butler's 1980  Night of the Juggler is an excellent NYC thriller. Starring a shaggy haired, bearded James Brolin, who plays Sean Boyd, an ex-cop/truck driver who chases the kidnapper of his daughter from one end of Manhattan to the other during the course of the story.  The kidnapper played with creepy intensity by Cliff Gorman  (money is his main focus, but you get the idea of something more evil lurking under the surface) has kidnapped Brolin's daughter Kathy (Abby Bluestone) in error, mistaking her for a rich real estate mogul's daughter.

   With the kidnapping occurring 15 minutes into movie and followed by 30 minute chase that has the antagonists moving from from cars to foot, on to the subway, back to cars and ending 100 min. later in the steam tunnels under Central Park, this is movie that pretty much never lets you catch your breath. Along the way we find out that Brolin was a Serpico -like cop who testified on police who were on the take and was subsequently fired.  This leads to Sgt. Otis Barnes, a psycho cop who's out to get him played by a wild-eyed Dan Hedaya (best known as Carla's's ex-husband on T.V.'s Cheers) chasing him. Also featuring Richard S. Castellano (The Godfather) as a sympathetic cop, Julie Carmen and Mandy Patnikin as a cab driver.

    A virtual breathless tour of a dirty, gritty NYC from the bombed out ruins of the Bronx (where Brolin runs afoul of a Warriors type street gang) to a pre-Disney Time Square where he tears apart an adult peep show - complete with a cameo by porn actress Sharon Mitchell.  James Brolin is really good here (he seems to do much of his own stunts) as the determined father who spends almost the entire movie running or beating people up. Director Robert Butler did this after coming off a bunch of T.V. (The Waltons) and Disney (The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes & The Barefoot Executive) among others.  A movie that REALLY needs a nice DVD or blu-ray release as all we've had is crappy budget VHS releases. Hopefully someday.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Rosalba Neri Friday #2

  Rosalba in L'Amante Del Demonio  (1972 AKA Lucifera - Demon Lover). Screen grabs from the Mya Communication DVD. Not a great looking DVD, but it does have English subs (and it is the only digital release).

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Ark of the Sun God 1983

   Italian director Antonio Margheriti's wonderfully cheesy and very entertaining rip- off of Raiders of the Lost Ark (with some Roger Moore era James Bond thrown in) is actually the second in a (kinda loose) trilogy -Hey, I wonder where they got that idea ! The the first being Hunters of the Golden Cobra (1982) and Jungle Raiders (1984) as the third. Hunters starred the same principles , while Jungle Raiders substituted Lee Van Cleef in the lead role.

   David Warbeck stars as Rick Spear (love that name), a safe cracker/master thief who's sent to Turkey to steal a scepter that once belonged to a King Gilgamesh who's buried in the Temple of the Sun. I'm not really sure what an ark has to do with anything, other then a tie-in to the first Indiana Jones movie and there is an ark (which looks suspiciously like the Indy one) pictured on the poster. Although obviously working on a very limited budget Magheriti (working here under his Anthony Dawson pseudonym)  manages to pull out a heck of a movie that barely lets up at all during its 98 minute running time.  Also starring Luciano Pigozzi (who was in about every other Italian "B" movie of the time - including all three of this trilogy), Achille Brugnini in the John Rhys-Davies role  (loyal, somewhat rotund sidekick) and Susie Sudlow as the girlfriend.

    Warbeck who also appeared in Fulci's The Beyond (1980) and numerous other Italian productions,seems to be having a wonderful time here (he grins piratically the entire time). The beginning starts off with a James Bond thing going on, but the second half turns on the all Indy stuff (albeit on a smaller scale) - rats in a sewer, pit of snakes, huge rolling stone (actually a wheel here) and a booby trapped temple guarded by a band of Bedouin cult members. Also featuring a couple of car chases done with radio control cars , miniature work and even a scale train. Its not very convincing, but doesn't really seem out of place here - in a good way. Plus, where else are you going to see Trans Am's and Camaro's blasting around around the Turkish desert ?  As the girlfriend Sudlow doesn't get to do much except stand around and scream (pretty much like Kate Capshaw in Temple of Doom ). Aldo Tamborelli contributes a very John Williams like heroic score and the beginning and end credits feature a synth driven pop/disco song.

   The finale with a sword fighting Warbeck leaping around the collapsing temple while it crashes down around the cast is pretty spectacular, all things considering.  A fun way to spend some time. Only video release I can find is a U.S. release on an old Interglobal Home Video VHS and a dodgy DVD from Televista (that looks like it was sourced from a VHS).  Available on a decent looking anamorphic 1:85 Italian  DVD (with English audio option), that I think now is out of print.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Tiffany Bolling Movie Night # 2 The Big Party 1975

   Tiffany Bolling from The Wild Party. A rather unlikely 1975 collaboration between Merchant - Ivory and American International, based very loosely upon the Fatty Arbuckle scandal in 1921. In 1920's Hollywood James Coco plays a silent film star who throws a huge party to celebrate his comeback and show his new movie (and things go rather badly).  A kinda messy script and not a great movie, but it is interesting and a features a wonderful performance by Raquel Welch as Coco's mistress. In addition , it has Royal Dano in it -always a plus. Tiffany's got a rather large part (5th billed and she gets to sing) and does an excellent job. Available on an MGM DVD.  Her next movie was Kingdom of the Spiders.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Point Blank 1967

"All's I Want Is My $97,000"   

     Lee Marvin in one of his best roles stomps, punches and shoots his way thru (and up) a corporate like crime organization in this 1967 psychedelic neo-noir directed by John Boorman.  After the robbery of a money drop on Alcatraz Island, Walker (Lee Marvin - we never do learn his first name) is double crossed and shot by his partner Mel Reese (John Vernon), who then leaves with Walkers wife Lynn (Sharon Acker). Walker mysteriously recovers and then wades in San Francisco Bay and begins his vendetta, seeming on the surface to be only interested in the exact sum of his share of the robbery take. Later he meets up with his wife's sister Chris played by Angie Dickinson who seems to be alternately drawn and repelled by him. In one of the more shocking scenes in the movie she viciously beats and slaps him before collapsing at his feet , while the whole time Marvin stands there emotionless.
   Starting with his ex-wife, Marvin stalks thru the movie like an angel of death showing no remorse or emotion as everybody he comes in contact with dies, but only indirectly as a result of him. He never actually kills anyone in the course of the movie, but almost everyone is killed by various circumstances of his quest. In flashbacks we see the idyllic life he led with his wife (with a sweet looking & smiling Marvin) and friend Reese. It is his loyalty to help out his friend (who needs the money to pay off what he owes to the mob) that leads to his betrayal and because of Marvin's great portrayal we root for him.  As he strides down an empty hallway with his shoes loudly echoing, the scene cuts back and forth to his wife goes thru her daily routines - maybe he's only mad that his life was destroyed and the money is just an excuse he tells people.
   Boorman presents the mob organization as a modern faceless corporation with glass high rises, secretaries and board of directors, while Walker seems almost like throwback to the past as he shoots phones and rips apart intercoms. Kind of like Peckinpah's Wild Bunch he's a man out of touch which make him an even more sympathetic character. He's cold, violent guy who stomps around all this contemporary 1960's architecture like an animal hunting his prey, but he's also the little guy bashing his head against the system (not unlike Jack Nicholson's classic restaurant scene in Five Easy Pieces).

    On one hand this reads like a standard revenge movie, but Boorman uses flash forwards (and backwards) cross scene sound effects and scene specific color schemes that give the whole movie a strange dream-like atmosphere. At one point Walker hooks up with a mysterious stranger (Keenan Ween) who helps point him toward the next person in line like a guardian angel (or maybe an apparition ?). The violence in the movie is short and begins with a startling swiftness and the fights are brutal in their simplicity as when Walker punches one man in the crotch or smashes another's face with a pistol as he walks thru a doorway. At the end of the movie we are left to wonder - was this just a quest for money, a payback for a ruined life or just a dying man's dream of revenge ?

   Marvin joined the USMC in 1942 at age 17 and was wounded at the battle of Saipan in 1944. He was awarded the Purple Heart and given a medical discharge. He drifted around in various jobs and only got into acting by mistake, mostly playing villains and won an Oscar for for a comedic role in Cat Ballou (1965).  I think Point Blank is his best role and after watching The Klansman (1974 - see post below), it was really good to be reminded how great he was. Plus, its his birthday on Feb. 19
   I gotta admit I love Angie Dickinson. It's really fascinating to watch her grow as in an actress in her roles. She got her first big role in Howard Hawks 1959 Rio Bravo (a great movie- but she's pretty weak in it) and then moving on Oceans 11 (1960) and Don Siegel's originally made for TV (but too violent so released theatrical) version of The Killers from 1964. She was really starting to come into her own by the time of Point Blank and in my humble opinion is one of the most beautiful women ever in the movies.
   A few words about John Vernon. Best remembered today for Animal House and his exploitation roles in such stuff as Savage Streets (1984) and Chained Heat (1983). He's one of my favorite actors appearing in among others, Dirty Harry (1971) and the great Charley Varrick (1973), both directed by Don Siegel.
  Luckily Warner has released Point Blank on DVD in beautiful anamorphic transfer with an informative commentary by  John Boorman and director Steven Soderbergh (a huge fan of the movie - just watch The Limey sometime to see how much) who admits two minutes into the commentary of stealing from it often. He does an excellent job of prodding and questioning Boorman on various aspects of the film and his career. Boorman mentions how bad the original script was and notes how it was used for 1999's remake Payback starring Mel Gibson which pretty much is a straight ahead action/revenge movie.  Look for Sid Haig in a small role and also an excellent turn by Carroll O'Connor as a mob executive.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Rosalba Neri Friday # 1

  Rosalba in Romolo Guerrieri's Johnny Yuma from 1966. One of the better spaghetti westerns co-starring Mark Damon & Lawrence Dobkin.

The Klansman 1974


"Hell, I'm The Damned Grand Exalted Cyclops !"

     The Klansman (the on screen title is simply Klansman) is a movie you kinda have to grudgingly admire for all the wrong reasons. It seems amazing that a major studio like Paramount would actually put their name to something like this, but then again this is the same Paramount that were behind Mandingo (1975 - which played in a double feature with The Klansman) and Mandingo's even more jaw dropping sequel Drum (1976). Most likely Klansman is right up there at the top for a seedy major motion picture with the most exploitation elements in it.  Though its intentions were most likely good, its fails miserably with its message and is such a train wreck of a movie that's it stands as one of the greatest bad movies of the decade (and for the 70's that's saying something).
    Featuring a once in a lifetime cast including Lee Marvin, Richard Burton, Cameron Mitchell, Lola Falana, Linda Evans, Luciana Paluzzi, David Huddleston and O.J. Simpson, the movie went thru a bunch of re-writes before shooting. This is one of the reasons original director Sam Fuller dropped out, although his name still appears in the credit as a co-screenwriter. James Bond director Terence Young was brought in as a replacement and that might help explain the out of left field casting of the dubbed here Italian actress Luciana Paluzzi who had appeared in Thunderball (1966). Fuller supposedly wanted the KKK more up front in story (with Marvin as a member who redeems himself at the end).
    Lee Marvin plays the town sheriff Track Bascomb while Burton plays Breck Stancill, a local landowner/ Civil Rights activist who incurs the wrath of the Klan. O.J. is a black militant who's starts picking off the local white supremacists with a sniper rifle and Huddleston is the local head of the KKK (and has a Confederate flag tablecloth).

    The main plot point is a woman (Linda Evans) who is raped whereupon all the townsfolk (although a specific location is never given Alabama seems to be the state) jump to the conclusion that a black man was the culprit and the ensuing events that escalate all the way to downbeat ending complete with a huge gunfight that has Marvin mowing down the KKK with a Thompson sub machine gun. The local folk are all portrayed broadly in full "redneck" mode (among them Dragnet regular Vic Perrin) with the worst being a scenery chewing deputy played by Cameron Mitchell who's name is (I kid you not) Butt Cutt Cates.  The soundtrack features two songs by The Staple Singers and is based upon a novel written by William Bradford Huie, a journalist who was heavily involved in the Civil Rights Movement.
    Marvin and Burton were both reportedly drunk during most of the filming and and while Marvin does a decent job of holding it together, its really sad to see Burton stumble thru this. He's accent seems to consist of a Southern/Welsh mumble that fades in and out. The fight he has with Cameron Mitchell (complete with Burton's hilarious attempt at Kung Fu) is something that has to be seen to be believed. If you haven't yet,  PLEASE watch him in his two short scenes (just a few minutes time) in 1962's The Longest Day as an RAF Pilot to see what a brilliant actor he was in his prime (and while your at it watch Lee Marvin in John Boorman's Point Blank from 1967).              
 Just for its seer whacked out lunacy its really worth a watch. By the looks of things on Amazon Paramount has allowed this to fall into the public domain as there are bunches of no brand DVD's out there (and beware most of which are the cut TV version). I viewed this on a DVDr by way an old VHS I had taped off Cinemax years ago which is the full theatrical version.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Creature AKA Titan Find 1985 DVD & Blu

    The 1980's saw bunches of Alien knock-offs - but only one features a truly demented performance by the great Klaus Kinski. On March 16 director William Malone is bringing out his 1985 horror/sci-fi classic Creature AKA Titan Find on DVD (and upcoming blu -ray). Only available previously in  poor quality cut and pan & scan releases, this is really something to look forward too.  Details are on his Facebook and for the time being it looks like it will only be available here.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Town That Dreaded Sundown 1976 Blu

   Just announced from Shout Factory is Charles B. Pierce's 1976 thriller The Town That Dreaded Sundown, the plot of which is based upon a real series of killings that occurred in and around Texarkana in 1946. Starring Ben Johnson (She Wore A Yellow Ribbon), Andrew Prine (The Centerfold Girls) and Dawn Wells from Gilligan's Island. An added bonus Pierce's The Evictors (1976) will also be included on DVD.
  Pierce (who died in 2010), had a pretty interesting career - alternating directing, writing and producing his own features, many of which he "based" upon real events and working as a set decorator on such films as The Outlaw Josey Wells (1976).  Yet another old VHS I can retire and hopefully this will lead to his drive-in classic The Legend of Boggy Creek to getting a nice transfer and release.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Remember The Days....Wizard Video Sell Sheets

    I found these over at the Full Moon website. Really cool old Wizard sell sheets from the 1980's that were sent out to video stores to promote upcoming releases. When VHS first exploded Full Moon's Charles Band got the rights to a bunch of European horror/exploitation and women in prison films (plus eventually branching out to U.S. stuff such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Penitentiary and Equinox among others) and brought them out under the Wizard label.  They were released in those big old flimsy cardboard boxes that seemed to fill the shelves of every mom & pop video store back in the day.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Beast of Morocco AKA The Hand of Night 1966

   A strange little British horror film released in 1966, this was ingrained on many monster fans minds because of the still that appeared  Famous Monsters of the "crooked eye" hooded figure and showings on late night television in the late 60's and early 70's.  Starring William Sylvester as architect Paul Carver who travels to Morocco after the death of his wife & child in an automobile accident. The films starts off with a weird dream-like credit sequence with skeletons , floating smoke and a 1960's British horror movie fake looking bat. Carver then is in a fog shrouded cemetery watching three coffins (one a child's) being carried into a crypt. Entering the tomb the sees a bearded Arab and himself and his wife as bride & groom, a coffin then opens with his wife in it and then a car accident with him yelling for the others to jump.

   After waking up on the plane to Morocco he meets an archaeologist named Gunther (Edward Underdown - who was also the undertaker in the dream sequence). After landing he meets Gunther's assistant Chantal played by Diane Clare ( Plague of the Zombies). Gunther invites Carver to come by his house later and later Carver then goes to visit a doctor friend of his and finds he has recently passed away. Although its never stated directly it is implied that Carver has come to Morocco to commit suicide. Believing himself a "harbinger of death" he gets drunk in the hotel bar. Later he walks to Gunther's house (after being warned he must pass thru the bad section of town) and is followed by an elderly Arab. After some bats appear the Arab makes a remark about "choosing between the light and the dark", then disappears. Arriving at Guther's house during a party he meets his partner Leclerc (William Dexter) who is the Arab in his dreams and Gunther tells him he has just discovered a tomb in the desert. While at the party Carver also spies a mysterious looking woman when he places a ring on his finger from Guther's collection of artifacts.

    Later that Carver has a dream where's is in a lavish place with the mysterious woman from the party and the Arab who he meet earlier during his walk. Waking up in the middle of the barren desert he is discovered by Guther and Chantal who inform him that this is the site of the tomb they are excavating.  Later its reveled that the tomb is of a Princess named Marisa, who swore a curse on mankind after she was buried alive for infidelity. Chantal and Carver soon start a love affair and it develops that Chantal represents the "light" while Marrisa "the dark" and they each trying to win him over. Gunther suggests that the spirit of Marisa might be a vampire and a struggle begins for the soul of Carver and his very weak mental state.
  The film tries very hard to do something different with the vampire mythology and the exotic setting in Morocco does help with the film's atmosphere. Although vampires are discussed and there are coffins and stakes, plus in one of the films truly startling scenes a  man's' face starts to disfigure in the sun (hence the famous "melting eye"' still) the film stays away from the usual black cloaked vampire trappings. Although made in 1966 it does have the look and feel of an early 60's film or late 50's film. Perhaps does fall a bit flat in some regards and it does try to do a little more then it can actually accomplish in the end it is an interesting film.

   It was actually filmed in Morocco so it doesn't have that "set bound" look that plagues some lower budget movies from the same period. The big problem with the movie is Sylvester, who would later appear in 2001 A Space Odyssey.  He just doesn't seem to have a great presence. He's performance is rather flat and somebody like Kieron Moore (Crack in the World 1965) would have made a better choice. British actress Diane Clare (who speaks in an excellent French accent in the movie) does well in her part. She reached a bit of a peak in the mid sixties with this and Hammer's Prague of the Zombies and The Wrong Box both from 1966, but then kind of faded from view in the late 60's. She also has a wonderful small role in Robert Wise's The Haunting from 1963 and also appeared in the well worth seeking out film Whistle Down The Wind from 1961. Her co-lead role in Plague most likely would have led to more Hammer roles at the very least  but she was over shadowed in it by Jacqueline Pearce.
   Although some sources state 1968 as a release date the copyright date on the few stills floating around from A.I.P. (who bought the film for American T.V.) shows 1967. The film has never had a video release and all the grey market DVD's floating around have a slightly faded/ pinkish look to the color. A Studio Canal DVD release  in England was rumored a few years ago nothing has materialized so far.