Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Rosalba Neri News # 32 THE FU MANCHU CYCLE 1965 - 1969 on Blu fom Indicator


   Collecting the five Fu Manchu titles produced by Harry Alan Towers, Indicator has announced this release for 19 Oct. 2020.  Directed by Don Sharpe, Jeremy Summers, and Jess Franco these feature Christopher as the title villain with Nigel Green, Douglas Wilmer, and Richard Greene playing his arch-nemesis Nayland Smith.
   A mixture of pulpy adventure and James Bond with a sprinkling of Euro-horror they are collected together in this limited (6000 units) edition box set. Containing a plethora of extras (some of which will address the controversies now attached to the character) including commentaries, interviews, image galleries, the first chapter of the silent Fu Manchu serial from 1923 and nice fat book among others.   
    Rosalba appears (with some really odd costume choices) in the last film in the cycle with Jess Franco's THE CASTLE OF FU MANCHU from 1969. There's a new 2020 interview listed with her in extras which is a definite plus.

Monday, July 27, 2020


     One of the more fascinating personalities on the periphery of motion picture history was producer Kroger Babb (who billed himself as "America's Fearless Showman"). A husker showman in the vein of the more famous Dave Friedman, Babb specialized in sex education films and mondo-style travelogues with his best-known effort being MOM AND DAD. First released in 1945 MOM AND DAD was infamously known for its graphic birth-of-a-baby footage and continued to play theatres well into the 1970s (eventually grossing upwards of $50 million) and was even added to the National Film Registry in 2006.
    In 1970 Babb released WALK THE WALK in what might have been an attempt to cash-in on an A.I.P.-type counter-culture film but in its marketing seems to harken back to REEFER MADNESS with a warning about the evils of drug use while also providing a head-ups to the older generation to the hippie movement.
    Directed by Jac Zacha whose only other directorial credit is the early gay sexploitation film THE STUD FARM from 1969, WALK THE WALK was produced by Babb's Ohio-based Hallmark Productions (formally known as Hygienic Productions when Babb was marketing sex-education films) and it seems to have gotten a decent amount of play around the country (with a lot of Midwest playdates) based upon newspapers ads. It disappeared after its release becoming a lost film for decades until several copies were found in an out-of-business film lab. It's available for streaming on director Nicolas Winding Refn's excellent byNWR website which is a treasure trove of cult & forgotten films.

      WALK THE WALK has 40-something old seminary student Mike (Bernie Hamilton - brother of jazz great Chico Hamilton and best remembered as Capt. Dobey on STARSKY AND HUTCH) who wanders through a bizarre collection of characters and settings in Los Angeles on his quest for heroin to feed his habit.  Starting with Mike ravenously licking various spots in his room where he had previously stashed his dope he heads out to score. Arriving a club with an unnamed psychedelic rock band wailing in the background he meets up with an equally long-in-the-tooth Judy (Honor Lawrence) who seems to have some sort of mystical status among the plots counter-culture characters. For a film supposedly dealing with the "youth movement" most of the actors (including many of the extras) appear to be at least 20 years too old for their respective parts??
     Moving from one random sequence to the next, Judy sets up "Toke" (Eric Weston THE IRON TRIANGLE) to take the fall for a drug deal for unexplained reasons, she and Mike hang out at her house where she goes into monologues concerning Warner Brothers cartoons and there's a stolen chalice lurking about. Most of the dialogue seems to ad-libed on the spot and the characters all engage in endless conversations that have nothing to do with the plot. Along the way we witness a hippie wedding overseen by Judy, a clown car-like assemble of people (and dogs) exiting a car, and a climatic endless lopping chase that starts in the city but switches to the desert suddenly. The film has three(!!) credited cinematographers which might mean an on-again/off-again shooting schedule. 
    Filmed around a decapitated and dingy-looking Venice the film features some excellent and bizarre location work that fits in with the proceedings with a very grungy post-Manson/Gimme Shelter end-of-the-hippie-dream atmosphere pervading everything. The acoustic folk soundtrack is by Kevin Dwyer and Eric Zohn (credited as Kevin and Eric).

   The director Jac Zacha based the film on much of his own experience (there are some period articles from trade publications over at Chris Poggiali's Temple of Schlock blog) and there was originally a filmed prologue with Zacha that is missing from the surviving prints. 
   Most often meandering and boring this a cinematic oddity, to say the least, but it's always nice to have a previously missing piece of film history appear and I find these weird little bits from the dark recesses of cinema endlessly fascinating. 

Saturday, July 18, 2020


It's Sat. March 19, 1977. Let's see what's playing in the Detroit, MI metro area.

Lots of post-Oscar hype and re-releases for some major studio stuff

Ralph Bakshi's WIZARDS is still playing at multiple theatres 5 weeks after its opening and would soon become a "midnight show" staple on Fri. and Sat. late nights along with various concert films for hordes of stoned patrons.

A triple feature of J.D.'s REVENGE, COOLEY HIGH and CORNBREAD, EARL AND ME at The Mercury on 6 Mile and Schaffer. This trio ran for what seemed like years at local theatres.

Kroger Babb's infamous UNCLE TOM'S CABIN is in its "Second Big Week!". Exploitation huckster extraordinaire Babb was famous for his sex-hygiene, nudie, and birth-of-a-baby films such as MOM AND DAD and had a career going back to the '30s. Cashing in on the MANDINGO and DRUM hype in the '70s, he bought a German-produced version of UNCLE TOM'S CABIN with Herbert Lom as Simon Legree and hired low-budget guru Al Adamson to shoot additional scenes of sex and sadism which he inserted. 

There's a double feature of the kinda/sorta EYES WITHOUT A FACE inspired MANSION OF THE DOOMED (with an early appearance by Lance Henrikson) and Juan López Moctezuma's recut and edited AT THE MANSION OF MADNESS under the title DR. TARR'S TORTURE DUNGEON. 

Based upon a series of unsolved murders around Texarkana in 1946, Charles B. Pierce's atmospheric proto-slasher THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN has been held over. With a post-GILLIGAN'S ISLAND Dawn Wells, 70's exploitation stalwart Andrew Prine, and in a bit of bizarre casting Ben Johnson as a Hispanic town sheriff. 

The Fox (which specialized in Kung-Fu and blaxploitation ) is showing the double feature of THE ONE-ARMED BOXER VS. THE FLYING GUILLOTINE (also known as THE MASTER OF THE FLYING GUILLOTINE) and SUPER DRAGON. This was also one of those seemingly perpetual running double features of the time period. I think I saw it twice! 

"The Dirtiest Harry Of Them All!" THE ENFORCER is playing all over the place including the Troy Drive-In which is where I saw it.

The Americana, Eastland, and The Showcase have a preview for the "R" rated SLAPSHOT with the disclaimer "certain language may be too strong for children" - but hey most of the language is fine and makes for a great family movie-night out!

The mythical THE FARMER is getting a pretty wide release in the Motor City. This lost exploitation revenge has never been issued on home video. 43 years on and I'm still kicking myself for missing this one. 

Held over is Michael Winner's gloriously lurid and wonderfully trashy THE SENTINEL which features Burgess Meredith channeling Ruth Gordon from ROSEMARY'S BABY, Beverly D'Angelo & Sylvia Miles as lesbian cannibals along with a pretty unbelievable cast of former Hollywood A-listers and up and comers.  And hey, there's John Carradine in one of his 11(!!) film roles from 1977.

CHATTERBOX staring the wonderful Candice Rialson is just playing at the Fairlane Drive-In after opening back on Feb. 2. It features Railson as a young woman and her adventures with a unique bit of talking anatomy. 

For the kiddies, there's a matinee of BRIGHTY OF THE GRAND CANYON, and Disney's FREAKY FRIDAY is in its "Seventh Freaky Week!"

Italian peplum kiddie matinee at the Northgate with Sergio Corbucci's GOLIATH AND THE VAMPIRES followed by a double bill later that day (not for the kiddies) of the above-mentioned UNCLE TOM'S CABIN and THE KLANSMAN starring Richard Burton and Lee Marvin 

Lots of  X and XXX to choose from!  

And some motocross racing coming up  at the Pontiac Silverdome

Monday, July 13, 2020



     Long before major Hollywood films dealt with the returning Vietnam Veterans and their sometimes difficult transition to civilian life the low budget biker films of this era often dealt with this and while they often did this with this on a pure exploitation level they did (mostly by default as I highly doubt they were looking to make serious social commentary) inject some feeling and pathos to the characters.
    Looking to break away from his Disney/Mouseketeer persona Tommy Kirk (OLD YELLER) stars in this 1971 genre effort which was co-written and directed by Ted "Duke" Kelly who's only other IMDB credit is the even more obscure "G" rated MY NAME IS LEGEND from 1975 which also starred Tommy Kirk. Kelly's notable claim to fame is that he's referred to as "a friend of Audie Murphy" in several sources and there are also a few references to his work as a stuntman but there are no credits that bear this out. I was also hard-pressed to find any evidence of a theatrical run for RIDE THE HOT WIND with no one-sheets or other promo material in circulation. It's probably played a few drive-in double or triple bills before fading into obscurity. There was a mega-rare VHS release back in the day that in spite of my renting every biker movie I could lay my hands on back in the days of video rental I never came across. Currently, there is a nice widescreen copy (with some appropriate grindhouse-style cigarette burns and dirt) available to stream on Amazon that carries the Vinegar Syndrome logo at the closing.

    Opening with stock footage of Vietnam combat during the credits (some of it quite graphic) we jump to a stateside military trial (which looks like it was filmed in a school gymnasium) where Capt. William Shanks (Tommy Kirk although billed here as the more adult-sounding "Tom" Kirk) is on trial for the massacre of Vietnamese women and children. Obviously based upon the actual incident concerning William Calley and the My Lai Massacre, it's a bold attempt at a contemporary issue from an exploitation film and in the hands of a more capable cast and crew (more on this later) could have really been an interesting and provocative story.
   After being found guilty Shanks is court-martialed and sent to a military prison where he is humiliated and brutalized in a brief montage (director Kelly loves his montages here). Upon getting a pardon he hits the road hitchhiking and is picked up by soft-core queen Marsha Jordan (MARSHA: THE EROTIC HOUSEWIFE and COUNT YORGA VAMPIRE) who invites him to her hotel room for a tumble. He finds work in an advertising agency and begins a relationship with a co-worker which leads to the first of TWO(!!) falling-in-love montages that we're treated to during the course of the film. Once his identity is known is to his employer Shank is summarily fired and unable to find other stable employment he falls in with a biker gang after beating up their leader during a fight at a roadside diner.

     The seemingly hopeless and befuddled biker gang defer to Shanks on everything (referring to him as "Captain") and he in turn yells and berates them every time they engage in biker-movie type activities including assault, robbery and the kidnapping and rape of two women. Shank dreams of escaping to Mexico with his unbelievably sweet biker girlfriend but things spiral downward to the nihilistic ending as Shanks and his gang are pursued by the local law enforcement (led by a jut-jawed and steely-eyed Ted Kelly). At one pint the biker gang launches into a party complete with dancing that must have reminded Kirk of his previous "beach party" movies.
     The film's plot contains some interesting points that if explored more deeply would have made for far more engaging viewing, but Kelly's flat direction and not picking up some of the deeper motivations to Kirk's character makes one wonder why they were introduced in the first place. Along with the above mentioned My Lai reference, there's also an interesting use of flashback from the biker violence to Shank's time in Vietnam that's clumsily approached, Kelly as the pursuing sheriff carries some begrudging respect and pity for Shanks which adds some nuances to the film's climax and their relationship is reminiscent of  LONELY ARE THE BRAVE and TELL THEM WILLIE BOY IS HERE.
     There's a lot of potential here and one wonders what a director like Jack Starrett or perhaps even Richard Rush could have done with this concept with William Smith, Bruce Dern, or Adam Adam Roarke in the lead role. Kirk seems to have only two emotional states in the film being either sullen or lashing out in over-stated anger every 10 minutes and strangely for the leader of the biker gang we never actually see him ride a motorcycle. Along with Kirk and the famously well-endowed Jordan, there are a couple more recognizable faces lurking around including Cheryl Waters (ACT OF VENGEANCE and MACON COUNTY LINE) as Shank's biker girlfriend and Sherry Bain (THE HARD RIDE and WILD RIDERS) as his advertising agency romance.
   The film's score is composed of library tracks one of which will be familiar to some viewers as it's been used in ad bumpers for local TV news. According to some signage seen it was filmed in the Lake Los Angeles area near Lancaster.