Archive for the Drive-in Movies Category

Bills’ Bizarre Bijou visits the COMMON LAW WIFE (1963)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 2013, 60s Movies, B-Movies, Bill's Bizarre Bijou, Campy Movies, Drive-in Movies, Exploitation Films, Hillbillies, Just Plain Fun, Revenge!, Romance, Swamp Movies, William Carl Articles with tags , , , , , , , on April 25, 2013 by knifefighter

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou

by William D. Carl

This week’s feature presentation:

COMMON LAW WIFE (1963)

VideoBox Welcome to Bill’s Bizarre Bijou, where you’ll discover the strangest films ever made.  If there are alien women with too much eye-shadow and miniskirts, if papier-mâché monsters are involved, if your local drive-in insisted this be the last show in their dusk till dawn extravaganza, or if it’s just plain unclassifiable – then I’ve seen it and probably loved it.   Now, I’m here to share these little gems with you, so you too can stare in disbelief at your television with your mouth dangling open.  Trust me, with these flicks, you won’t believe your eyes.

In the wild, wild world of exploitation films, bits and pieces of one movie can often make a ‘guest appearance’ in another film, spliced into the new film as padding for the running time, or as a way to save on the budget.  Most of the time, this created annoying sequences that have nothing to do with the movie you’re viewing at your local drive-in, distractions to the main plot.  Other times, the footage was inserted so well a casual viewer never noticed he’d been duped.  A lot of film buffs, such as me and you, my fans in the dark, take great pleasure in noticing such scenes and shouting out, “Hey, that was stolen from INVASION OF THE STAR CREATURES!”  It’s a fine, old exploitation tradition, and we at the Bijou salute the filmmakers who managed to pull it off.

In 1960, Larry Buchanan, the infamous director of such sublimely awful fare as THE NAKED WITCH (1961), ZONTAR, THING FROM VENUS (1966), MARS NEEDS WOMEN (1967), and THE LOCH NESS HORROR (1981) started shooting a hicksloitation epic called SWAMP ROSE.  Starring Lacey Kelley (NUDE ON THE MOON – 1961, THE DEAD ONE – 1961), the unfinished film dealt with a moonshiner obsessed with a woman of easy virtue.  This footage was purchased by M.A. Ripps, who wanted to make it into a hit drive-in feature, as he so famously transformed the movie BAYOU into POOR WHITE TRASH (1957).  New director Eric Sayers used many Buchanan regulars: (Anabelle Weenik (going by Anne MacAdams) of CREATURE OF DESTRUCTION (1967), A BULLET FOR PRETTY BOY (1970), DON’T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT (1973); Max W. Anderson of HIGH YELLOW (1965), IN THE YEAR 2889 – (1967); and THE NAKED WITCH herself Libby Hall (as Libby Booth)).  Sayers shot a whole new storyline with these actors, including an unbilled woman to take Lacey Kelley’s role (and they don’t look much alike) using only bits and pieces of Larry Buchanan’s SWAMP ROSE.  There is a scene with Lacey Kelley walking down the street, her boom-boppa-boom stride mocked by a little girl, some scenes in a park, and a chase between a crazed hillbilly moonshiner attacking Lacey that make up most of the old footage.  Everything else is newly shot with actors from other movies.  Confused yet?  You won’t be once you watch COMMON LAW WIFE (1963), Sayers’ adults-only white-trash melodrama set in Texas.  It’s easily one of the greatest exploitation films from the period.  Other than a few film stock mis-matches and a character that switches actresses several times, you’d never know this was once two films edited into one trashy grindhouse gem.

But what about the story of COMMON LAW WIFE?

The film opens on a typical night at the Raineys’ rather tacky abode.  Old man Shug is playing darts in his bathrobe before drinking the biggest damn glass of wine in existence.  When his live-in mistress, Linda, tells him he’s not supposed to drink, he throws five darts at her head, embedding them into the wicker chair behind her.  He asks, “Do you want me to put one right between your eyes?”  Turns out, she’s lived with him for five years, and it’s taken a toll on her beauty.  He wants her to get out so his niece Jonelle (“Call me Baby Doll”) can come live with him.  “What’s she got?’ she shrieks.  Shug answers, “My attention right now, which you haven’t.”  Linda, shocked says, “Why she’s your own blood niece!  That’s incest!”  He replies, “Words don’t mean much to me.  I’ve already sent for Baby Doll.  Go pack your things.”

In New Orleans, we are introduced to Jonelle, a gorgeous stripper in a nightclub who resembles Traci Lords.  She packs her dresses and heads for rural Texas to stay with her uncle (Eww).  Turns out, Jonelle’s sister, Brenda, is married to the Sheriff, Jodi, who was having flings with both sisters during high school.  Jodi’s more than a little interested in rekindling his torrid affair with Jonelle, while good wife Brenda stays at home.

Shug and Jonelle, what a cute couple!

Shug and Jonelle, what a cute couple! (Ewwww)

Meanwhile, Linda consults a lawyer and discovers she’s lived long enough with Mr. Shug Rainey to be his common-law wife.  Mrs. Rainey buys herself a wedding ring and informs Shug that she is his legal wife, and if he wants his niece serving him in his house (Eww), he has to divorce her and pay alimony or give her the house.  Secretly, though I have no idea why, she loves the old dude.

Jonelle kick-starts her affair with Jodi (what a nice sisterly thing to do), but she throws a hissy fit after he says he doesn’t want to help her murder Shug for the old man’s money.  In spite, she gets up and starts stripping and dancing in front of what looks like several farmers and their wives who are either shocked or bemused.  She leaves with another old beau, Bull, who takes her out to the swamp to see his moonshine still.  Ah, romance in Texas!  When he gets fresh, she runs away through the swamp.  This whole part is Larry Buchanan’s, and it’s a bit rougher and grittier than the newer footage. 

She runs all the way back to her sister’s house (the actress changes here), but Brenda has figured out what’s happening between her husband and Jonelle.  She tosses her sister out of her house, but not before Jonelle steals the booze.  With nowhere to go, Jonelle hunts down Bull and they return to the swamp (wait, wait, didn’t he try to rape her the previous night?  Ah, romance in Texas!) 

The original Jonelle.

The original Jonelle.

Jodi goes after her (the heel!) and tracks her to Bull’s house, where a gunfight erupts over Jonelle.  He abducts her to his home, where the cold facts about their past relationship come to light.  Brenda catches them together and holds them at gunpoint!

Will Jonelle get one over on Linda?  Who will get old man Shug Rainey’s money when he dies? What about the cyanide-laced bottle of whiskey?  Will we ever get to see a full print of SWAMP ROSE?  Probably not, but this common-law version is a real hoot!

COMMON LAW WIFE is filled with great, hateful dialogue delivered in authentic, delightful accents.  It was Grace Nolan’s only writing credit, and I wish there’d been a lot more.  Some choice cuts of the nasty, mean-spirited dialog include:

“I was a stray cat lookin’ for a home, and I took it however I could.”

“Folks around here might think the circus has come to town.”  “They might be right!”

“From now on, this is my house.  And I don’t want any tramps hangin’ around it!”

“The only way I’ll see any of that old man’s body is over his stinkin’ dead body.”

“You couldn’t hit a bull with a bass fiddle.  Let alone that cap gun.”

“I met a couple of strangers in town today, and they claimed they didn’t know you.  You want their names so you can bat a thousand?”

“You’ve put on weight.  City food must be good.”

“A girl can learn a lot of lessons in the dark.”

Vengeance, thy name is Linda!

Vengeance, thy name is Linda!

The black and white photography is crisp and full of noir shadows.  The music is great jazz, heavy on the sax and trumpet, but the composer is unbilled.  Who knows where that great score came from?  The acting is campy and over-the-top, as it should be in a swamp melodrama like this one.  And the ending is brutal and shocking in a way few films of that era ever were.  COMMON LAW WIFE may be confusing sometimes, what with actresses switching and film stock not matching, but it’s loads of fun.  It’s like Douglas Sirk on tainted moonshine. 

I give COMMON LAW WIFE three and a half revolving actresses out of four.

© Copyright 2013 by William D. Carl

QUICK CUTS: WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE SAM RAIMI MOVIE?

Posted in 1980s Horror, 2013, Classic Films, Crime Films, Demonic Possession, Demons, Drive-in Movies, Fun Stuff!, Horror, Indie Horror, Marvel Comics, Quick Cuts, Sam Raimi, Superheroes with tags , , , on March 15, 2013 by knifefighter

QUICK CUTS:  WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE SAM RAIMI MOVIE?
With Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Daniel Keohane, Kelly Laymon, and Paul McMahon

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  With Sam Raimi’s latest movie OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL (2013) now in theaters, we’ve decided to celebrate the occasion by asking our panel of Cinema Knife Fighters to name their favorite Sam Raimi film.

Okay Cinema Knife Fighters, What’s your favorite Sam Raimi movie, and why? 

*****

DANIEL KEOHANE:  I’d have to say SPIDER-MAN (2002), being a major web-slinger fan as a kid. Granted, ARMY OF DARKNESS (1992) was a hoot when I saw it at 2:00 am during a 24-hour film festival… but overall, his first SPIDER-MAN is on top of the list.

Spider Man poster

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Yeah, I have to agree with you.  My favorite has to be the first SPIDER-MAN (2002), as well.  True, SPIDER-MAN 2 (2004) might be the better movie, but I remember being so blown away and impressed by the first one, for me, it remains my favorite Raimi picture.

Sure, there are his EVIL DEAD movies, and his thrillers like THE GIFT (2000), and the current OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL is pretty amazing, but personally, I prefer Spidey over the Wizard and a bunch of munchkins any day of the week.

KELLY LAYMON:  I have zero interest in the new OZ flick. Partly because I thought it was released four weeks ago when they had the giant premiere by my old apartment and I had to see James Franco, Mila Kunis, and Michelle Williams in a true giant hot air balloon above my apartment.

simple_plan_poster

But as much as I enjoy the EVIL DEAD films and the SPIDER-MAN flicks, I might have to go A SIMPLE PLAN (1998) on this one. (And I’m overlooking his baseball flick, which people know kills me!) But I just love a good crime movie where money and some dead bodies muddy the entire situation. I love stories about people who are presented with an opportunity and act drastically.

PAUL MCMAHONTHE EVIL DEAD (1981) is my favorite Raimi film. I had a co-worker hand me a VHS tape of it.

“This is the worst-looking movie you’ll ever love,” he said.

I watched it twice in a row that night and ordered my first copy the next morning. The rest of his work is pretty good (with the possible exception of SPIDER-MAN 3 (2007), but I can’t imagine living in a world where THE EVIL DEAD doesn’t exist.

the-evil-dead-original-1981-poster

L.L. SOARES: Yeah, I have to agree with Paul. I remember seeing THE EVIL DEAD the first time at a drive-in theater. It was the second feature after George A. Romero’s DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978), which I had seen about 10 times by then. I’d heard about EVIL DEAD but hadn’t seen it, and it was a real treat. It was just gory and insane and Bruce Campbell was amazing as Ash. While I’ve enjoyed Raimi’s work since then, including his often-overlooked slapstick flick CRIME WAVE (1985) and the underrated DRAG ME TO HELL (2009), nothing comes close to the original EVIL DEAD for me.

MICHAEL ARRUDA: Well that’s it for this edition of QUICK CUTS. See you again next week with reviews of more new movies.

—END—

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou visits THE CREATURE FROM BLACK LAKE (1976)

Posted in 1970s Movies, 2013, 70s Horror, Animals Attack, Bigfoot!, Bill's Bizarre Bijou, Drive-in Movies, Swamp Movies, William Carl Articles with tags , , , , , , , on February 28, 2013 by knifefighter

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou

William D. Carl

This week’s feature presentation:

THE CREATURE FROM BLACK LAKE (1976)bbbcreature

Welcome to Bill’s Bizarre Bijou, where you’ll discover the strangest films ever made.  If there are alien women with too much eye-shadow and miniskirts, if papier-mâché monsters are involved, if your local drive-in insisted this be the last show in their dusk till dawn extravaganza, or if it’s just plain unclassifiable – then I’ve seen it and probably loved it.   Now, I’m here to share these little gems with you, so you too can stare in disbelief at your television with your mouth dangling open.  Trust me, with these flicks, you won’t believe your eyes.

Howco International Pictures was a small, independent film production company that was established in 1951 by Joy Newton Houck, Sr.  Based out of New Orleans, they produced little movies for the Southern Drive-In circuits, usually double features like Lash Larue Westerns or the John Agar wonder THE BRAIN FROM PLANET AROUS (1957).  After releasing everything from Roger Corman to Ed Wood to Ron Ormand movies, they really hit the big time with a giant hit, THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK (1972), which effectively combined documentary footage with the story of a Bigfoot-like creature called the skunk-ape.  The movie made millions and was a hit world-wide.  Hoping to play on the success of that film, Joy Houck, Jr. directed a script by his pal Jim McCullough, Jr. entitled THE CREATURE FROM BLACK LAKE (1976) and created the creepiest Bigfoot movie ever made.

The film begins with Joe Canton and a fellow trapper tranquilly boating through the swamps around Black Lake, checking their traps.  Suddenly, a hairy arm emerges from the water and snatches the buddy from the boat, leaving Joe Canton (played by stalwart Western veteran Jack Elam—ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, 1968 and RIO LOBO, 1970) screaming for help.  Nobody believes the old drunk except for two cryptozoology students in Chicago who read about the experience in the papers.  The two men take off in their van for Louisiana on a hunt for the monster.  Pahoo (what the hell kind of name is that for a Yankee?) is a Vietnam Vet who jokes about everything, hates chicken with a passion usually reserved for despots, and is played by Dennis Fimple (KING KONG, 1976, the MATT HOUSTON TV series, 1982, and he was Grampa Hugo in HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES (2003).  Rives is more serious and good-looking and a draft dodger, and he is played by ex-model John David Carson, who appeared in such diverse movies as EMPIRE OF THE ANTS (1977), PRETTY WOMAN (1990), and THE DAY OF THE DOLPHIN (1973).  Together, they encounter a hostile sheriff, who warns them to get out of town, locals who proclaim the creature a myth, a practical joke-playing waitress, and more yokel southern-fired, hee-haw stereotypes than you can shake a Confederate Flag at.

Jack Elam swears he wasn't drunk when he saw THE CREATURE FROM BLACK LAKE,

Joe Canton (Jack Elam) swears he wasn’t drunk when he saw THE CREATURE FROM BLACK LAKE,

Pahoo accidentally finds Joe Canton, but he loses him, but not before Rives encounters a young man named Orville Bridges, played by hawk-nosed screenwriter Jim McCullough, Jr. (the multi-talented guy also wrote and sang the songs for the movie).  Orville informs them he saw the creature when he was a toddler in a car crash that killed his parents.  Now he lives with his grandparents, and he’ll show them around if they don’t talk about Bigfoot.  They go home to a big country dinner.  Grandpa is played by Dub Taylor, from THE WILD BUNCH (1969), BONNIE AND CLYDE (1967), and BACK TO THE FUTURE III (1990).  The old man is a walking advertisement for hick Southern trash, wheezing and making jokes nobody finds amusing.  During dinner, a mule brays loudly, and Pahoo shouts out, “Is that him?  Is that the creature?”  Grandma goes into a PTSD inspired sobbing fit, and Grandpa kicks the two Yankees (who, by the way, both possess southern twangs) to the barn for the evening.  While getting ready for bed, they hear the howling, haunting cry of Bigfoot closer than is comfortable.  They are terrified, but not so much that they don’t pick up two pretty southern belles in the local hamburger joint and invite them to their camp for the evening.

Dennis Fimple, Jim McCullough and John David Carson commiserate in THE CREATURE FROM BLACK LAKE.

Dennis Fimple, Jim McCullough and John David Carson commiserate in THE CREATURE FROM BLACK LAKE.

The girls show up, and they all party a bit, playing over the recording of the Bigfoot cry.  Soon, they discover one of the girls has a father who is the sheriff – the same one who warned the boys out of town on the first day.  He hauls them into jail, where they stay the night with stinky Joe Canton, who is in the tank for getting drunk and chasing the creature with a shotgun.  Instead of heeding the sheriff’s warning, the two boys head for the woods to track the beast, which leads to a night of harrowing horror as the Bigfoot stalks them, separates them, and brutally attacks them.  These scenes are incredibly intense for a PG-rated film, never gory, but always scary and suspenseful.

The acting is good enough – nothing to shout over, but tolerable for this sort of yee-haw Southern horror tale.  Jack Elam chews the scenery with gusto, camping his drunken role up to the tenth degree.  Dennis Fimple and John David Carson make for likable heroes, and their interactions are natural and believable.  The extras and small roles are filled with people who obviously live in the town where this was filmed.  Their non-acting abilities actually lend an air of documentary-like verisimilitude to the proceedings, and the accents are to die for!

THE CREATURE FROM BLACK LAKE benefits most, however, from the wonderful cinematography of Dean Cundy.  Cundy started his career with the exploitation circuit, lensing such films as BLACK SHAMPOO (1976), the amazing THE WITCH WHO CAME FROM THE SEA (1976), HALLOWEEN (1978), WITHOUT WARNING (1980) and ROCK N ROLL HIGH SCHOOL (1979).  He moved on to larger pictures like THE THING (1982), WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT? (1988), JURASSIC PARK (1993), APOLLO 13 (1995), and THE HOLIDAY (2006).  THE CREATURE FROM BLACK LAKE is filmed in a gritty, sun-fried style, much like THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974), and this lends a feeling of you-are-there realness to the action.  The scenery is beautiful, but never intrusive, and the Bigfoot creature is wisely kept mostly in the shadows, so the movie is about suspense and the threat of violence more than the actual acts of violence.  This may be what makes that final fifteen minutes so disturbing and exciting.  We do care about these two men by this point, and it appears as if we are watching documentary footage of their stalking and possible killing by his monster.  The suspension of disbelief is suspended way up in the sky somewhere, never interfering with our nerve-wracking enjoyment of the movie.

One of the CREATURE's victims floats to the surface.

One of the CREATURE’s victims floats to the surface.

The movie isn’t perfect.  There’s a bit too much of the folksy humor, especially around Dub Taylor’s character, who seems like he should be plucking a banjo and attacking Ned Beatty any second.  It slows down the momentum of suspense in the film and the characters strains credibility as much as he strains his overalls.  Plus, the epilogue of the movie seems tacked on in order to pacify an audience that wanted a happy ending.  After the sheer terror of the previous night, the sun is shining and everything is just hunky-dory.  In the real world, this would have ended very differently.

But why quibble?  On the whole, THE CREATURE FROM BLACK LAKE is a wonderfully spooky Bigfoot movie, possibly the best one out there.  The scares at the end are earned, and the photography is fantastic.

I give THE CREATURE FROM BLACK LAKE three trespassing Yankees out of four.

© Copyright 2013 by William D. Carl

Meals for Monsters Presents: THE INCREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES WHO STOPPED LIVING AND BECAME MIXED-UP ZOMBIES (1964)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 1960s Horror, 2013, B-Movies, Bad Acting, Carnival Chills, Cult Movies, Drive-in Movies, Gypsy Curses, Hypnotic Horror, Jenny Orosel Columns, Just Plain Weird, Meals for Monsters, Ray Dennis Steckler, Zombies with tags , , , , , on February 6, 2013 by knifefighter

MEALS FOR MONSTERS: THE INCREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES WHO STOPPED LIVING AND BECAME MIXED-UP ZOMBIES (1964)
Review and Recipes by Jenny Orosel

poster

It could be argued that the best part of THE INCREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES WHO STOPPED LIVING AND BECAME MIXED-UP ZOMBIES (1964) is the title. It wouldn’t be hard to argue that, because it is a bad movie. Ninety five percent of this movie is plain awful. But that five percent that isn’t is such pure awesomeness that it makes up for the rest and does make it a fun flick for a movie night.

The title sums up only a portion of INCREDIBLY STRAGE CREATURES. The movie opens with a carnival fortune teller turning a drunk into one of those mixed-up zombies after he spurns her advances. Flash-forward to three not-so-young young people (can’t any low-budget directors find anyone under the age of thirty to play a teenager?) looking for kicks at the local carnival. Jerry and his friends go in for a psychic reading with Madame Estrella from the prologue. She is not appreciative of their silly manner, especially the obnoxious Jerry. So she enlists the help of her sister, a stripper, in bewitching the juvenile delinquent. Soon he abandons his buddy and his girlfriend and only wants to watch Carmelita take it off. She, Madame Estrella and her henchman Ortega turn Jerry into a hypnotized assassin. Can they be stopped before Jerry goes full-blown into mixed-up-zombiness?

I’ve seen some great movies made on a near nonexistent budget. This is not one of them. The acting is horrible (the director cast himself in the lead, presumably to save a few bucks). The story seemed like an afterthought and the pacing was lousy (after the prologue there was barely any reference to the mixed-up zombies until near the end). The tagline for INREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES was “The First Monster Musical”. Reading that, I was expecting…well, a musical. Not so here. Instead, we had a movie with song and dance numbers by the strippers and showgirls thrown in whenever they couldn’t think of anything else to do with that time slot. And I use the term “dance” loosely; it was more like walking around in sync.

So why am I recommending INCREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES?  Because it’s fun. It’s so far from being politically correct (Estrella and Ortega are a mishmash of the worst stereotypes for Hispanic, Gypsy and Jewish combined) that you feel almost naughty just for watching it. Plus, there are parts of the flick that just straight up look awesome. The dream sequences alone were stunning (it’s worth mentioning that, in the midst of this film involving mostly non-professionals, cameraman Vilmos Zsigmond went on to win a cinematography Oscar for CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977)).

When coming up with cocktails for these movies, I try to avoid really bad puns. But I don’t always try very hard. Hence, I bring you the:

MIXED-UP ZOMBIEdrink

Ingredients:
1 shot rum
1 shot peach schnapps
1 shot apple schnapps
8 ounces fruit punch

Directions: Take the four ingredients and, well, mix them up.

Seeing as most of the movie takes place at a carnival, it would be fitting to make carnival food. My personal favorite is the corn dog. However, if you don’t have a deep fryer big enough to make Paula Deen weep, it can get very messy very fast. And baked corn dogs resemble their carnival counterparts the way a pug resembles a guard dog. So instead I bring you the best of the corn dog flavors, but in a less messy vehicle:

CORN DOG CAKE dinner

Ingredients:
1 package corn bread mix
½ cup milk
4 hot dogs, cubed
2 miniature pickles, cubed

Directions:Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray a 9 inch loaf pan with nonstick spray. In a bowl, mix the first three ingredients, then fold in the last two. Bake for 20-25 minutes, depending on how hot your oven runs (mine took 22 minutes). Invert onto a plate, slice and serve with mustard/ketchup sauce and a salad (so you can claim something resembling nutritious for dinner).

MUSTARD/KETCHUP SAUCE:
Ingredients:
¼ cup mustard
3 tbsp. ketchup
3 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

Directions: Combine in saucepan and heat on low until warmed and mixed well together. Serve over Corn Dog Cake

Candy apples come with similar problems to corn dogs. To get that good, hard, bright red cinnamon exterior you need to deal with melted sugar at insanely high and precise temperatures. Ten degrees too hot or too cold can completely ruin it. Then there’s the problem of spillage—on kitchen equipment, it’s a bitch to clean off and spilled on flesh is really not something you ever want to experience. So, again like dinner, dessert captures all the flavors of the candy apple, but in a much easier way:

CANDY APPLE PIE

dessert

Ingredients:
1 pre-made refrigerated 2 part pie crust
5 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced.
½ cup sugar
3 tbsps. cornstarch
1 2oz bottle Red Hot cake decorations (or equivalent bulk candy)
1/3 cup butter, cut in cubes

Directions: Preheat oven to 425. Place first crust layer inside a 9 inch pie plate. Mix the apples, sugar, cornstarch and candies in a bowl. Pour into the crust, and scatter the butter cubes around the filling. Top with second crust dough, seal the edges and do NOT forget to poke air holes in the top crust (yes, this was learned the hard way). Put the pie plate on a cookie sheet to catch any drips or overflow. Bake 50 minutes, or until crust is nicely browned. Serve with whipped cream, ice cream, or the souls of your enemies.

The director, Ray Dennis Steckler, is responsible for some of the greatest titles in drive-in history: RAT PFINK A BOO BOO (1966), THE MAD LOVE LIFE OF A HOT VAMPIRE (1971) and THE HOLLYWOOD STRANGLER MEETS THE SKID ROW SLASHER. Whether these movies live up to the promise of those titles has been debated by film fans worldwide. But after giving THE INCREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES WHO STOPPED LIVING AND BECAME MIXED-UP ZOMBIES a try, I suggest exploring some of his other titles. I’m willing to bet you’ll have more fun than an evening of toenail clipping. And, if you need help enjoying them, go ahead and add an extra shot or two to your Mixed-Up Zombie.

© Copyright 2013 by Jenny Orosel

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou goes to GHOST TOWN (1988)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 1980s Horror, 2013, Bill's Bizarre Bijou, Drive-in Movies, Ghosts!, Westerns, William Carl Articles with tags , , , , , on January 31, 2013 by knifefighter

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou

William D. Carl

This week’s feature presentation:

GHOST TOWN (1988)

bbbghostposter

Welcome to Bill’s Bizarre Bijou, where you’ll discover the strangest films ever made.  If there are alien women with too much eye-shadow and miniskirts, if papier-mâché monsters are involved, if your local drive-in insisted this be the last show in their dusk till dawn extravaganza, or if it’s just plain unclassifiable – then I’ve seen it and probably loved it.   Now, I’m here to share these little gems with you, so you too can stare in disbelief at your television with your mouth dangling open.  Trust me, with these flicks, you won’t believe your eyes.

Ah, Empire Pictures: A Charles Band Production – at one time those words sent anxious chills down my spine as I waited for the credits of the second feature to end and the next movie at the drive-in to begin.  Charles Band brought us unbelievably cheap, shoddy, stupid, and FUN movies during the 1970s and 1980s.  This is the man who unleashed lizard aliens in LASERBLAST (1978), a killer Chuck Connors in TOURIST TRAP (1979), Demi Moore pursued by a chest-bursting Alien-wannabe in PARASITE (1982), midget Satanist monsters in GHOULIES (1985), Tim Thomerson time traveling in TRANCERS (1985), and the list goes on and on. . . . TROLL (1986), TERRORVISION (1986), RE-ANIMATOR (1985), FROM BEYOND (1986), PRISON (1988), CELLAR DWELLAR (1988), CANNIBAL WOMEN IN THE AVACADO JUNGLE OF DEATH (1989), and who can forget 1988’s SORORITY BABES IN THE SLIMEBALL BOWL-A-RAMA?  With a few exceptions, these were bad B-movies, maybe even D or E movies, but there was a certain charm to the “I Can Do It” attitude everyone at Empire brought to their projects that compensated for most of the budgetary restraints.  What remained were fun little movies that many remember fondly.

One of the last Empire Pictures produced by Charles Band was GHOST TOWN (1988), a horror western hybrid that was actually head and shoulders above almost everything Band unleashed upon the poor suckers still in their cars at drive-ins at two in the morning.  This little baby fell between the cracks as Band folded Empire Pictures and brought forth Full Moon Pictures, which threatened to (and sadly, for a while, did) release a new movie on video every month.  Don’t get me started on Full Moon movies.  They made the Empire flicks look like Ernst Lubitsch in comparison, although they had their followers.

Anyway, as GHOST TOWN begins, a beautiful woman in a convertible, Kate, (Catherine Hickland from the TV shows CAPITOL, WEREWOLF, and ONE LIFE TO LIVE) races through the desert.  A fallen power line stops her, and she takes a shortcut (Uh oh!  We all know how those turn out).  She tosses a bridal veil from the moving car and she hears the hoof-beats of an invisible horse and rider following her.  Her tire blows, and a mysterious sandstorm envelopes her, all to the sound of many invisible horses, and something takes her, leaving the road completely empty.

Enter scruffy Sheriff Langley, played by Franc Luz (THE NEST, 1988 and WHEN HARRY MET SALLY, 1989).  He’s called out to the missing girl’s Mercedes.  Turns out she’s the spoiled daughter of the richest man in the county, who just turned runaway bride.  Langley has always had a yen for her, so he goes searching for Kate, and instead spots men on horseback who fade into the heat-waves (a cool effect).  Suddenly, a Wild West outlaw attacks his car, shooting it up.  Then, the tires explode and the car catches fire, leaving him on foot and stranded.  He finds a sign for a town, Cruz Del Diablo, and when he reaches for it, a desiccated zombie grabs his arms and rises from the sand.  It says, “You’re the one – the one who will rid my town from this fate worse than death.  Go!  Now!”  And the talking dead man promptly folds itself back into its grave.  This is followed by a raging storm, and Langley takes refuge in a dilapidated house.

Franc Luz as Langley

Franc Luz as Langley

In the morning, Langley discovers the old house is part of a rundown, deserted Western town.  Eventually, he runs into The Dealer, a drunken gambler played by Bruce Glover (CHINATOWN, 1974 and GHOST WORLD, 2001).  He informs the sheriff that the girl is in the town, and that they have nothing but time…nothing but time.  Okey-dokey.  Langley finds a sheriff’s badge in the local bar, and when he puts it on, he starts seeing the inhabitants of the town, including bar-owner/ bartender Grace (Penelope Windust of V, 1983 and IRON WILL, 1994).  She disappears just after informing him the telegraph wire has been down for “some time.”

The town is stuck in time, reliving the wild days before the Devlin gang killed everyone in the place, letting some roam as ghosts and others becoming only voices in the night, crying between heaven and hell.  Now, the zombified Devlin (the despicable Jimmie F. Skaggs of PUPPETMASTER, 1989 and  OBLIVION, 1994) and his gang of thieves hold the remaining townspeople hostage.  Kate, who looks an awful lot like Devlin’s old girlfriend who was killed by Devlin for rebuffing his advances, is being held hostage by his gang of outlaws while Devlin tries to (yuck) romance her.

Langley learns his modern day weapons don’t work on the ghostly Devlin gang, but when he uses the old, dead sheriff’s six-shooter, it kills ‘em real good!  So, it’s showdown time with a chase through Cruz Del Diablo and a final gunfight that, while not worrying John Ford, is exciting enough for a popcorn flick like this one.

Welcome to GHOST TOWN

Welcome to GHOST TOWN

GHOST TOWN is filled with alternating action set pieces and moments of creepy imagery.  There’s also plenty of gore during the exciting shoot-outs, as well as a man dragged by horses, skulls crying blood, a crucifixion on a windmill, silver smelting, and a Phantom of the Opera-type unmasking scene.   It gallops along fairly quickly, aided immensely by Luz’s self aware performance as Langley (you actually root for him; he’s earnest as hell and he’s actually pretty smart for a hick sheriff character, though his jeans are so tight you wonder how he runs in them at all) and the over-the-top histrionics of Skaggs as Devlin.  He isn’t just chewing the scenery; he’s putting a bib around his neck and sitting down for a buffet.  Beneath his yellow fake teeth and his scarred, shot-up face, he rolls his eyes and hisses every line of dialogue, laughing wildly while killing people and spouting lines like “I’ve seen the devil.  When you get to Hell, give him my regards.”

GHOST TOWN is beautifully shot on desert vistas by Mac Ahlberg who photographed dozens of Full Moon and Empire productions (MERIDIAN, 1990, CRASH AND BURN, 1990 and FROM BEYOND, 1986) as well as many bigger productions like DEEPSTAR SIX (1989), INNOCENT BLOOD (1992), BEVERLY HILLS COP III (1994), and A VERY BRADY SEQUEL (1996).  He’s lately returned to the Band family wagon with such unimpressive credits as PUPPET MASTER: THE LEGACY (2003) and KILLER BONG (2006).  He died this year, but he thankfully left us the sepia-toned and sunset-infused photography of GHOST TOWN.  He made this low-budget movie look like it cost twenty million bucks.  It raises the whole production from decent to quite respectable.

It’s really too bad GHOST TOWN is almost completely forgotten after a token VHS release from New World.  It’s a fun little B-movie, full of action, with contemptible villains, heroes to applaud, pretty women, and several great action sequences.

I give GHOST TOWN three zombified outlaws out of four.

© Copyright 2013 by William D. Carl

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou wants you to GET CRAZY (1983)

Posted in 1980s Movies, 2013, Bill's Bizarre Bijou, Campy Movies, Cult Movies, Drive-in Movies, Just Plain Fun, Rock 'n' Roll Movies, Roger Corman with tags , , , , , , , , on January 17, 2013 by knifefighter

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou

William D. Carl

This week’s feature presentation:

GET CRAZY (1983)

gcposterWelcome to Bill’s Bizarre Bijou, where you’ll discover the strangest films ever made.  If there are alien women with too much eye-shadow and miniskirts, if papier-mâché monsters are involved, if your local drive-in insisted this be the last show in their dusk till dawn extravaganza, or if it’s just plain unclassifiable – then I’ve seen it and probably loved it.   Now, I’m here to share these little gems with you, so you too can stare in disbelief at your television with your mouth dangling open.  Trust me, with these flicks, you won’t believe your eyes.

After director Allan Arkush released the wonderful drive-in hit ROCK ‘N’ ROLL HIGH SCHOOL in 1979, he was tapped to make the big budget Christmas release, HEARTBEEPS, co-starring Andy Kaufman and Bernadette Peters in 1981.  Have you seen it?  Neither did anyone else, so Arkush returned to the genre that gave him his biggest hit – rock and roll comedy!  In 1983, he found a great script about the final concert given at a rock theater and all the people involved in that New Year’s Eve show.  In his wayward youth, Arkush had been an usher at the Fillmore East, and he’d seen more than his share of great concerts.  So, this was a project close to his heart.  Once completed, Arkush gave the world its first Robert Altman multi-storylined, actor-centric movie by way of the Zucker Brothers (AIRPLANE, 1980).  GET CRAZY is rock and roll heaven.

Daniel Stern and Gail Edwards get involved with some monkey love.

Daniel Stern and Gail Edwards get involved with some monkey love.

Max Wolfe (Allen Garfield of THE CONVERSATION, 1974 and THE STUNTMAN,  1980) owns the Saturn Theater, and he’s had one chili-dog too many, causing a heart attack.  He decides to throw one last, huge concert on New Year’s Eve, invite everyone who’s played there, and turn the reigns of the Saturn over to one deserving soul.  His kiss-ass nephew, Sammy (played by Miles Chapin of THE FUNHOUSE, 1981 and THE PEOPLE VS. LARRY FLYNT,  1996) wants to sell the theater to big-time promoter Colin Beverly (Ed Begley Jr. of AMAZON WOMEN ON THE MOON, 1987 and the ST ELSEWHERE TV series), who only cares about how much money he can make by bulldozing the hall and putting up a shiny new theater, getting rid of the sex and drugs and rock and roll forever.  Max wants to keep the place as it is, so the kids can see the artists, afford the tickets, and enjoy themselves.  He is followed by his two minions played by none other than (former teen heartthrobs) Fabian and Bobby Sherman.  Meanwhile, the stage manager, Neil Allen (Daniel Stern of HOME ALONE, 1990 and CITY SLICKERS, 1991) is falling in love with the new girl on the crew, Willy Lomann, played by Gail Edwards (star of TV’s FULL HOUSE and BLOSSOM).  She once worked for Max years ago, but gave up the rock when she thought she had a future with a bigger promoter.  Neil’s little sister is desperate to see the concert and sneaks out of the house, but Neil must make certain she doesn’t get into too much trouble.  Plus, their unobservant parents are played by the great Dick Miller and Jackie Joseph (LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, 1960 and GREMLINS, 1984)!  Electric Larry, the local drug dealer, delivers plenty of speed to keep the staff moving at top velocity.  The lighting tech (Mary Woronov of EATING RAOUL, 1982 and SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT, 1972) is having electrical failures; the local doctor (Paul Bartel, also from EATING RAOUL and HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD, 1986) is trying to keep Max alive for the night; and lighting intern Joey (Dan Frischman of TV’s HEAD OF THE CLASS), just wants to lose his virginity.  A bus full of hippies led by Captain Cloud and the Rainbow Telegraph arrive with a pass for New Year’s Eve 1968, take over the green room, and immediately get high while planning the finale for the show.  The fire inspector (“No spark too small.”) is on the warpath and refuses to allow any fireworks or open flames.  Meanwhile, Max puts through a deathbed request to Auden, a Bob Dylan-type of folk singer who hasn’t performed in years and is played by Lou Reed!  Auden gets in a taxi and starts planning what song he’ll play for Max’s last big show.

Electric Larry brings the New Year's speed.

Electric Larry brings the New Year’s speed.

Then, the bands arrive!

First up is a slightly punk all girl group (much like The Go-Gos) called Nada (fans scream Nadanadanadanada!) with special guest, Piggy, a pierced punker locked in their trunk, played by Lee Ving (lead singer of the real band Fear and one of the stars of STREETS OF FIRE, 1984).  Nada is played by the lead singer for King Creole and the Coconuts, Lori Eastside.  After an all-blind, all-blues funeral, King Blues (an awful lot like Muddy Waters) and his new guitarist, Cool, show up, but they are accidentally sent a Jews band instead of a Blues band to back them.  Then, along comes Reggie Wanker, a Mick Jagger type of English strutter played by Malcolm McDowell (of A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, 1971 and CAT PEOPLE, 1981).  He has a midlife meltdown onstage and during a truly existential moment (and a truly extended drum solo), he has a long conversation with his penis in which he decides how to live the rest of his life!  It’s a funny moment, but McDowell wrings it of every bit of pathos he can.  Remember when he was a great actor and not just someone who took every part that came his way?  His girlfriend, the Countess Chantamina wants more out of life, and she decides to find a new love.

Malcolm McDowell plays Reggie Wanker.

Malcolm McDowell plays Reggie Wanker.

When the concert starts, all hell breaks loose with multiple story-lines overlapping while awesome music plays constantly in the background.  One great joke involves every single band playing a cover of King Blues’ “Hoochie Coochie Man,” including a fantastic, adrenaline-fuelled punk version by Piggy.   “Who says a white boy can’t sing the blues?” the old bluesman says.  Every band gets to play an original number and a version of the hilariously familiar “Hoochie Coochie Man.”  Oddly enough, the music is all pretty terrific, and it raises the silly comedy to a whole new level of insanity.  I suggest you crank it to eleven and make the walls shake!

Piggy (Lee Ving) and the Nada band perform "Hoochy Coochy Man."

Piggy (Lee Ving) and the Nada band perform “Hoochie Coochie Man.”

The crowd goes insane, LSD ends up in the water supply, romance blossoms, a giant living joint is chased all over the theater, the bathroom is infested with sharks, the fire inspector ends up naked and hallucinating, a bomb is hidden in the theater, and every actor gets a bit where they can do something funny.  Somewhere in that great, gigantic cast you can also find Clint Howard, Robert Picardo, and Linnea Quigley.

With so many plots and musical performances flying around like an air traffic controller’s nightmare, it would have been easy for Arkush to drop the ball, but he maintains the juggling act right through the explosive finale.  Everything works so well, I can’t find anything to criticize.  The comedy bits drop so fast and furiously, if one joke falls flat, the next one works beautifully.  And the editing is special, too, especially when the bomb is being planted while Reggie Wanker sings his heart out onstage.

Plus, “Hoochie Coochie Man” is a really great song!

It’s too bad the movie didn’t do well; GET CRAZY epitomizes a fun time at the theater.  This would be a perfect comedy to watch on New Year’s Eve with your buddies and plenty of cocktails.  You need to see it!

I give GET CRAZY three and a half giant joints out of four!

© Copyright 2013 by William D. Carl

Suburban Grindhouse Memories: SPRING BREAK (1983)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 2013, 80s Movies, Comedies, Drive-in Movies, Grindhouse Goodies, Nick Cato Reviews, Sex Comedies, Suburban Grindhouse Memories, Teen Sex Comedies with tags , , , , on January 10, 2013 by knifefighter

Suburban Grindhouse Memories No. 59:
The ULTIMATE Party Flick
By Nick Cato

spring_break_poster_01

March, 1983. President Reagan refers to the Soviet Union as an “Evil Empire.” A transit strike cuts off train service for 70,000 New Jersey commuters. Pope John Paul II begins an eight-day, eight-nation tour of Central America. And here on Staten Island, my friends and I went to the opening night premiere of SPRING BREAK, a FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH / PORKY’S-like teen comedy that features more beer-guzzling, wet T-shirt contests, and bad jokes than any other film in existence. We may not have been politically conscience at the time, but at least we had our priorities straight.

Directed by Sean (FRIDAY THE 13th) Cunningham, SPRING BREAK was another in a long line of early 80s teen comedies, and while it’s not all too funny, it is remarkably entertaining (at least if you’re a high school freshman, as I was upon this initial viewing).

Nerdy buddies Adam and Nelson rent a room in a party-motel in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. But just as they’re settling in, two cool dudes (Stu and O.T.) show up and claim they had already booked the same room. Figuring it’d be easier to score chicks with two cool guys as roommates, Adam and Nelson agree to let them crash there. The first time we see O.T., he enters the motel and chugs a large bottle of Miller like it’s spring water as bikini-clad babes run around looking for their rooms. He’s a big, shirtless dude with a goofy headband, on a mission to party like it’s the end of the world…and along with Stu, his mission is accomplished less than twenty minutes into the film.

During the first night with their new roommates, Adam and Nelson watch from the corner of the bedroom as Stu and O.T. shag two Playboy model-looking girls. It’s a private lesson neither one of them will ever forget, and their spring break is off to a rockin’ start.

BUT (cue villain music)…not wanting his stepson to have any freedom (or give his political career a bad name), Nelson’s stepdad shows up to try and stop the fun. His right-hand doofus henchman, Eddie (played by legendary character actor Richard B. Shull) is also some kind of building inspector who attempts to shut the motel down, but of course is thwarted every step of the way by Stu and O.T. via cases of Miller beer and inflatable sharks(!).

SPRING BREAK is a silly film that was created for no other reason than to make money off teenage boys (::raises hand::). It suffers from some lame acting, a terrible script, and basically exists to show off some of the hottest bikini babes the producers could find (they did quite good). Among them is a fictional all-girl “rock” band called HOT DATE that performs a song unsubtly titled “I Wanna Do It To You.” O.T. even falls head-over-heels in love with their singer (played by gorgeous former Penthouse Pet of the Year Corinne Alphen) and doesn’t care if he has to let his coolness factor down to try and get her. Also on hand (besides the fantasy girls) is the cute, all-American girl next door Susie (played by ‘Seventeen’ magazine cover model and then-future TV star Jayne Modean) who eventually hooks up with Nelson and “turns him into a man.”

In one scene (to show how these two-pairs of unlikely friends are all now true buds), the four of them take a drunken leak into the toilet at the same time. It’s more heartwarming than you’d expect! Another is when the foursome goes to buy pot off some older freaky Latino hippie who lives in a van. It’s probably the funniest scene in the film (although that’s not saying much).

I’m pretty sure Miller Beer had something to do with the production: not only is it chugged and product-placed all over the screen, but it’s used to wet down the participants of countless wet T-shirt contests and poured over everyone else’s head (apparently in Ft. Lauderdale you’re supposed to wear your beer before you drink it). At least this is what I took away from the film, besides the idea that having cooler guys than yourself as roommates can get you laid easier.

The soundtrack features Cheap Trick and .38 Special’s hit song ‘Caught up in You,’ which is used during a rather frustrating sequence (Nelson gets lost after he attempts to get back to Susie’s room after he runs out to grab a can of Coke!). And even though Hot Date’s song is terrible, the band is easy on the eyes, so we’ll let their lack of musical ability slide…

Perhaps this film was the inspiration for those GIRLS GONE WILD videos that ruled late night infomercials in the early 2000s? Or maybe even a vehicle to try and popularize the infamous sport of belly-dive competitions? Or maybe SPRING BREAK issimplya standard to the coming-of-age, nerds-lose-virginity, party-animal films of the 80s done the right way. Sure, it’s a mindless exploitation film, but the characters are a lot of fun (especially the motel’s manager Geri, who will remind you of your cool elderly aunt) and it’s a great way to forget both the dreary winter months and adulthood: use it to get away to a much more fun time and place, even if it’s for just 90 minutes.

Judging by the laughs and applause from the crowd I watched this with, everyone had a blast. SPRING BREAK is probably the best way to vicariously enjoy spring break if you’ve never made it down there or can’t afford to do so.

An extras-free DVD was finally released in 2009, so if you’re curious, check your brain at the door, kick back, crack open a Miller, and enjoy the fun. You also might want to have a towel handy to dry all that beer off your head.

(BEST SCENE: O.T. doing a drunken belly-flop from the top of a tall palm tree as an equally drunken crowd cheers him on!)

© Copyright 2013 by Nick Cato

Our four party animals (Nelson, O.T., Stu, and Adam) in a publicity shot for SPRING BREAK.

Our four party animals (Nelson, O.T., Stu, and Adam) in a publicity shot for SPRING BREAK.