Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Rosalba Neri News # 30 LA CASA DELLA PAURA (THE GIRL IN ROOM 2A) 1974 On Blu




    X Rated Kult have announced the upcoming release of THE GIRL IN ROOM 2A for later this fall. Although a release date of Nov. 8 has been posted over on Blu-ray.com there is no pre-order has of now on Amazon. X-Rated doesn't have much of an internet or social media footprint and their initial media book style releases tend to disappear quickly with a standard package release following.
   Although a European production it features a couple of Americans in the mix being the last movie directed by skin-flick specialist William Rose (THE SMUT PEDDLER and RENT-A-GIRL) and it was produced by Dick Randall (THE FRENCH SEX MURDERS and FRANKENSTEINS CASTLE OF FREAKS) who had a hand in bunches of features starting in the early 60's such as THE WILD WORLD OF JAYNE MANSFIELD before heading to Europe where he spent the majority of his career.
    Owing a bit more to ROSEMARY'S BABY (with a bit of Val Lewton's THE SEVENTH VICTIM mixed in) then the giallos its most often lumped in with it works a pretty decent little thriller with creepy atmosphere but things never quite completely gel like you would hope. Daniela Giordano (YOUR VICE IS A LOCKED ROOM AND ONLY I HAVE THE KEY) plays a young woman who after being sent to prison on trumped up charges goes to live in creepy rooming house overseen by Giovanna Galletti (KILL, BABY...KILL!). Rosalba plays a social worker for Giordano and Karin Schubert (THE COLD EYES OF FEAR) also appears. 
     The Blu-ray DVD package will be released in a mediabook format with the four covers shown in a limited edition (usually 333 or 666 or some such number) and later a standard edition with the book. It was previosly released on a now OOP DVDfrom Mondo Macabro.






The above screenshots are from the Mondo Macabro DVD 




Wednesday, October 16, 2019

DRAGNET 1967 : THE LSD STORY

Season 1
Episode 1

Original Air Date Jan. 12 1967

"Your pretty high and far out. What kind of kick on you on, son ?"



"It was Tuesday March 15th. It was fair in Los Angeles"
"We were working the day watch out of Juvenile Narcotics"
"The boss is Capt. Richie" 


    In 1966 Jack Webb relaunched DRAGNET for NBC television and a featured length movie was produced as a pilot which did not actually air until 1969. The series proper premiered on Jan. 12, 1967 with this episode which has become of the best loved for fans of the series. Playing it would seem constantly in reruns somewhere during the 70's and beyond, these newer color episodes have somewhat sadly become more readily available the series classic B&W run in the 50's. With the new color episodes Webb's never changing wardrobe of dark slakes and grey sport jacket stand out along with the brown smog drenched opening shot of Los Angeles ("This is the city...")
   Now produced in color Webb decided it was time for the TV version LAPD and Sgt. Friday to confront the exploding counter culture moment and the associated drug use which in turn accounted for some the more infamous &  entertaining episodes of the series (including next seasons THE BIG PROPHET and the much-loved THE BIG HIGH). One more major change for the series revival was a new partner in the form of Webb's old friend Harry Morgan as officer Bill Gannon. Like Ben Alexander's portrayal of Det. Frank Smith in the B&W series run, Morgan's deft touch of comedy was a perfect foil for Webb's portrayal of the ramrod straight Friday and their interactions would become highlights of the new episodes (you see Webb trying his best to stifle laughter during some sequences).  
   Sometimes known as the "Blue Boy" episode this initial episode of the resurrected DRAGNET took the no-nonsense Joe Friday crashing headlong into the world of psychedelics, Sunset Blvd. and hippies. It takes place in the historical time frame before the outlaw of LSD on 10/6/1966 - which the episode takes note of.



  Working out of the Juvenile Division Friday & Gannon respond to a call concerning strangely behaving teenager Benjie Carver (child actor Michael Burns) whose been reported tripping out in vacant lot with his head buried in the dirt. Popping out of the ground with a yellow & blue painted face he utters such classic lines as "I'm green, I'm a tree!" and proclaims himself to be "Blue Boy!"
  Arresting him and bringing him back to station the officers face the wrath of the boy's parents who being obviously upper class start throwing their weight & money around ("Are saying my son is a drug addict !?"). We then get a trip to forensic chemist Ray Murray (Webb regular Olan Soule - and probably my favorite actor in the Dragnet universe) where he relates the history and effects of LSD with the some hoped-for chilling asides with ominous cue music concerning its effects.



     With Benji let off with probation Friday & Gannon begin coming across various kids who become involved with LSD but are set straight with Friday sternly explaining how a simple experiment with marijuana can lead to LSD and as mentioned the episode takes place in the historical context before the drug was outlawed.  The story ends with the passage of the law outlawing LSD and the expected tragic climax of the episode. Along the way we get some great footage of the Sunset Strip (used in later episodes) including Pandora's Box and The Trip - complete with a Marquee for The Ted Neeley Five (Neeley later played Jesus in the original Broadway production of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR). At one point Friday and & Gannon bust a hippie drug pad that features psychedelic lighting and a guy eating paint (!!) all set to some trippy music played backwards on reel-to-reel tape deck.
    Shari Lee Bernath (THE FIEND WHO WALKED THE WEST 1958) and Heather Menzies-Urich (PIRANHA 1978) show up as a couple of wayward teens who after experimenting with LSD are put back on the straight path by Friday & Gannon (with the girls even becoming snitches!).  Also on board is soon to be series regulars Alfred Shelly (usually playing secondary Sgts or detectives), busy TV character Arthur Knapp as the pushy father and Art Balinger (usually as here playing the stern captain).




Monday, October 7, 2019

GIRLS ON THE ROAD (aka HOT SUMMER WEEK) 1972


"Looking For Men...Looking For Trouble...And Finding Both!!"



      A frustrating example of film that should (and could) have been a nifty example of early 1970's drive-in/exploitation, this was first released under the title HOT SUMMER WEEK in early summer 1972 and after having not made nary a ripple was sent out the following year re-titled GIRLS ON THE ROAD which played up the thriller elements a bit more. Producer Joe Solomon and Fanfare Productions had pretty good run before this with HELLS ANGELS ON WHEELS (1967), THE LOSERS (1970), EVEL KINIEVEL (1971), WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS (1971) and he was the subject of an article in Esquire ("The Last of the Schockmeisters" written by Roger Ebert). Not featuring a whole lot of "road", "girls" or "hot" sadly GIRLS ON THE ROAD (or HOT SUMMER WEEK) is a bit of an outlier in Solomon's career as went on to produce the solid Blaxploitation police drama TOP OF THE HEAP (1973) and A SMALL TOWN IN TEXAS (1976 - directed by the great Jack Starrett). 
    Part of that 70's sub-genre of dangers of the road which included JOYRIDE TO NOWHERE (1977), HITCH HIKE TO HELL (1977), THUMB TRIPPING (1972) and THE YOUNG CYCLE GIRLS 1978 , the opening credits for GIRLS ON THE ROAD start off promisingly enough with a quick shot of softcore big bust queen Uschi Digart (YAAH!! Uschi!!) in a bikini which is followed by a desperate attempt to be cool as the credits roll through on bumper stickers, graffiti and various signs interspersed with such classics as "Honk If Your Horny". We're then introduced to a pair of SoCal. high school girls studious bespectacled nice girl Karen (Dianne Hull ALOHA BOOBY AND ROSE) and somewhat spoiled rich girl cheerleader Debbie (Kathleen Cody SUPERDAD). It's quickly reveled that neither one of them gets into much trouble in school and being self-proclaimed "wallflowers", they cling to each other during a party chaperoned by Debbie's parents and watch in envy to some PG rated debauchery by their fellow classmates. They decide this being the first day of summer vacation to take off on a spur-of-the-moment road trip.
     Driving off in Debbie's new Mustang for her parent's beach house in Big Sur the pair joyously decide to "let their hair down" which involves driving like idiots while bouncing off a few curbs & running red lights, flashing older motorists and throwing their bras out the window. Being the 1970's they decide to pick up some hitchhikers ("only the cute ones") and soon give a hippie a ride but end up stranding him and steal his guitar.

 An Uschi cameo is always a good thing!



     Unbeknownst to the pair there's a serial killer operating in the vicinity of the beach house where they're headed who's been killing young girls and leaving their bodies on the beach. There's a likely suspect in the form of a recently discharged Vietnam Vet named Will (Michael Ontkean from THE NECROMANCY and later the sheriff in TWIN PEAKS) who periodically suffers from flashbacks that appear to be pieces of various colored clear plastic bent & waved in front of the camera. He's first shown in a roadside diner where he gets in a fight with a couple of pool playing bikers (one played by famous stuntman Charlie Picerni) and gets the best of the situation by pulling a gun on them.
     After the encounter at the diner Will wanders out to the road to hitchhike where he's picked by you-know-you. Seems he's heading to the same general area in Big Sur as the girls. He's going  back to a place called The Institute Of Human Potential (??) which is one those California encounter group things unique to the 70's which pop up constantly in movies from that era (there even one in MAD MEN) where folks sit around in a circle, engage in meditation and everybody and everything is "beautiful". The Institute (conveniently enough) is located right next door to the girl's beach house destination and plus just happens to be where bodies from the serial killer are showing up. 
     Upon arriving they meet the head of the institute John (a shaggy haired and bearded Ralph Waite from THE WALTONS) who's been worried about the till now gone-missing Will and immediately shows a creepy interest in the underage Karen while Debbie and the still flashback induced Will start a romance. Also lurking about is Lt. Williams aka "The Maker" (John McMurty GROUP MARRIAGE) who's a former comrade of Will and who paints people faces, carries around a dove, constantly wants an audience as he acts out his "fantasies" in glitter makeup and stares creepily at the two girls. Throughout the film we're constantly hearing newsflashes blaring out breathless reports concerning the killer even when there's no radio or TV in sight (which were probably added post-production) and despite the non-stop media coverage there's disturbing lack of police presence about the area (meaning none).




     The plot unfolds as a curious mish-mash of a coming of age along with road film (although played up in the advertising we only spend about 20 min. on "the road") and a serial killer/proto-slasher with a strangling and a climax that features an axe welding maniac as Will's wavy colored flashbacks take up an inordinate amount of screen time. The trailer included on the Scorpion DVD carries a PG rating which is very well in line with what you could get away with in 70's as the film features some scant nudity and blood. You get distinct feeling that this originally started out as an R rated production before something happened along the way.
    Waite walks away with the acting honors without even half trying and the two girls even though looking distinctly different often seem to be playing the same rather bland character. The films ends really abruptly as if they simply stopped filming or there were a few pages of script missing. Dianne Hull was later very touching as one of the title characters in Floyd Mutrux's sadly underappreciated ALOHA BOOBY AND ROSE in 1975. Producer Joe Solomon shows up in a cameo has a liquor store customer who buys the girls some beer.
    The film features some attractive cinematography courtesy of David Walsh (CLEOPATRA JONES) and director Thomas Schmidt was a second unit director for John Struges on HOUR OF THE GUN and ICE STATION ZEBRA but passed away at age 35 with this being his only director credit. The music is by Tom McIntosh and there's a couple pieces of 70's AM fluff with one titled "Fantasy in Love" that's played ad nauseum throughout the film (much like the newscasts) and is guaranteed to begin grating on one's nerves well before the closing credits. The two bikers Will fights in the bar wear the Devil's Advocates colors on their jackets from THE LOSERS and some footage from that film shows up in Will's flashbacks.
    The film also features some odd poster designs with one picturing the girls disembodied heads floating in a hippie prayer circle while a second one has a spoiler filled illustration of the climax's axe killer. Scorpion issued this on a now OOP DVD with it's more common HOT SUMMER WEEK title card along with a trailer, alternate titles and an interview with writer David Kauffman.






















Wednesday, October 2, 2019

BLOODY MAMA 1970


The Shelley Winters Blogathon hosted by Realweegiemidget Reviews Poppity Talks Classic Film


"MEET MA BARKER who took her bibles, her hymn book and her tommy
 gun and raised four sons and raised more hell the most of the mobs in Chicago"





     Produced and directed by "B" movie mogul Roger Corman and released by A.I.P. in 1970 BLOODY MAMA, was a drive-in answer to Arthur Penn's BONNIE AND CLYDE (1967) with eschewing (for most part) Penn & Beatty's European art house/French New Wave aspirations. Although geared toward the exploitation market, Corman always gave his films some artistic flourishes (it's often forgotten what a technically skilled director he was and how beautiful looking his movies were) and BLOODY MAMA does show that Corman was an avid watcher of films and was aware of what was going on at the time artistic-wise in Hollywood and overseas.
     In the late 60's Hollywood's obsession with the youth market met that many classic Hollywood greats and Oscar winners were regulated to the sidelines and forced into secondary roles or leading roles in exploitation movies. For the men this often-meant roles as emasculated or evilly corrupt authority figures standing in the way of the under 30 anti-hero. For women it often came down to playing shrieking harpies in the so-called "hag horror" that began with Robert Aldrich's WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE (1962) and was still growing strong in the late 60's along with bizarre exploitation fare like Lana Turner on LSD in THE BIG CUBE (1969) and the fascinating Jennifer Jones train wreck of  ANGEL, ANGEL DOWN WE GO  from 1969 (which was written by Robert Thom who also wrote the screenplay for BLOODY MAMA).




    Winters who by time of BLOODY MAMA had two best supporting actress wins and had been one of the better respected supporting actresses in Hollywood was seeing her career regulated to TV (she had played "Ma Parker" in the BATMAN TV series) and had begun to tip her toe into the exploitation genre with THE MAD ROOM & WILD IN THE STREETS in 1969. She would later appear in Curtis Harrington's fascinating takes on the "hag horror" genre with WHO SLEW AUNTIE ROO? and WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH HELEN? in 1971. Although when looked at the time her role of Ma Barker would have seemed a bit shocking Winters always took great gusto in these later roles which in spite of the bluster would always show what a fine actress she was and with her mainstream career fading she would more & more go into full on "Shelley Winters" persona in roles and on the talk show circuit.
    Along with Winters BLOODY MAMA contains a fascinating mixture of up & comers, character faces and ingenues on the downside. Although a gangster picture at its heart, Corman & screenwriter Thom are more interested in the characters rather than their exploits (there's only one actual bank robbery in the course of the film) and film features some marvelous performances. With these characters come at times a very vile and sordid story with rape, incest, and drug addiction taking center stage often in the proceedings.
    Opening de rigour for a gangster film banjo driven main title theme this one by composer Don Randi we're shown 14-year-old Kate being pursued through the woods before being violently held down by two boys and being raped by an older man who we learn are her brothers and father. Jumping forward we find a now adult Kate Barker (Winters) in rural depression-era Arkansas with her brood including Herman (Don Stroud THE HOUSE BY THE LAKE), Arthur (Clint Kimbrough NIGHT CALL NURSES), Fred (Robert Walden TV's LOU GRANT) and an almost impossibly young Robert De Niro as Lloyd.




     Forcing to flee after the boys are accused of a vicious gang rape of a local girl that resulted in her broken arm, Kate loads the boys into a car stolen from the sheriff and bids good-bye to meek mannered husband George (Alex Nicol THE SCREAMING SKULL) with the parting words "you never did know how to mount me right". It's pretty amazing how much seediness the films packs into it's opening moments.
    Once on the road the gang/family quickly resorts to a life of crime with Stroud's Herman showing himself to be the most dangerous as he is a psychotic killer who occasionally needs to be cradled in Ma's arms and taken to her bed and Lloyd becomes more dependent on his morphine addiction with the occasional glue sniffing ("you sure start acting funny when your building those model planes..."). Along the way the pick-up a prostitute named Mona whose played by Diana Varso who has previously appeared with Winters in WILD IN THE STREETS and was nominated for an Academy Award for PEYTON PLACE in 1957. Although nominally attached to Herman, she's not above climbing in the back seat with Arthur while Herman is driving.
    Herman and Fred are thrown into jail for attempting to rob a charity benefit and while in jail Fred becomes involved in an S&M relationship with Kevin (Bruce Dern) who upon release joins the gang and sometimes shares Winters bed when she's not with one of her brood. Things escalate with the brutal murder of a young girl and the kidnapping of a banker (a wonderful performance by the great Pat Hingle) and the climatic and bloody shootout at the gang's FL. hideaway. it's during the extended kidnapping scene with Hingle that Corman and Thom really let the characters stretch out (especially Winters and Stroud) as the boys begin to bond with the kidnapped banker seeing in him a father figure they never had.




    Winters is a true force of nature her, not only making the character of Ma Barker seem almost larger than life, but she spews forth her dialogue with a visceral force that must be heard to be believed. Alternately quoting the bible and dispensing with her own version of social justice, she sings spirituals while condemning the entire human race as immoral and berating the "rich heathens". If not for the talent of a great supporting cast, she would push them all to the background. De Niro in particular is fascinating to watch as you can't take your eyes off him even when he's lurking in the background.
     Opening with the title card "Any similarity to Kate Barker and her sons is intentional" the screenplay by Thom is more indebted to the gangster fantasy that Penn & screenwriters David Newman & Robert Benton (along with an uncredited Robert Towne) put forth in 1967 to BONNIE AND CLYDE. Corman takes the basic story of the outlaw gang and infuses it with seediness and sordid details along with requisite violence that make for a great drive-in exploitation movie. But as mentioned before the characters are all well developed and Corman shoots some sequences with almost a poetry like ambience such as the beginning with young girl running slowly through the woods in a gunny sack dress and later at the climax when groups of spectators silently watch the bloody shootout (which is based on actual fact).
     Bruce Dern's character Kevin is based upon Alvin "Creepy" Karpis who was the last surviving member of the Ma Barker gang and later befriended Charles Manson in jail and taught Manson how to play guitar. There's still much debate on how much of a criminal mind "Ma" really was and many believe that Hoover inflated her reputation in order to justify her violent death at the hands of authorities. The house in Ocklawaha, FL. where the hours long shootout took place is still standing (complete with bullet holes) and in reality, only Kate "Ma" Barker and Fred where there at the time. Hollywood had previously tackled the story in 1960 with MA BARKER'S KILLER BROOD starring Lurene Tuttle which was released by Something Weird on DVD (in a nifty dbl. feature with GANGBUSTERS) and BLOODY MAMA has been released on DVD and Blu-ray by Scorpion.










The above screen caps are from the Scorpion DVD