National Lampoon’s Movie Madness (1982)

Originally made as National Lampoon Goes to the Movies, this film sat for two years, perhaps to age like cheese, and was intended to be a parody of ten film and television genres. It ended up being three movies — a divorce story, a making-it-big movie and a cop caper. When it played a test screening in Rhode Island, the audience was so upset that they tore up the theater seats.

Yes, it wasn’t going well. And the disaster movie that was intended to be part of it — directed by Henry Jaglom — was completely taken out of the film despite being completed done. This threw the whole movie off time as it’s too short with only three parts.

“Growing Yourself” is about the divorce of the Coopers, Jason (Peter Riegert) and Susan (Candy Clark). It’s very late 70s and at this point, I figured that everyone making this was just doing coke — confirmed — and coasting thanks to Animal House, the Lampoon name, having an animated opening and getting Dr. John to do the theme. That said, Diane Lane is in this and that kind of made it better.

“Success Wanters” is about a woman (Ann Dusenberry, Jaws 2) who goes from exotic dancer to margarine magnate — Robert Culp has a heart attack and she gets it all — to First Lady. It’s kind of like those 40s rags to riches stories yet not good.

The last story, “Municipalians” teams a rookie cop (Robby Benson) with a crusty veteran (Richard Widmark) on the hunt for a serial killer (Christopher Lloyd). It’s worth just seeing the casting.

Bob Girladi directed the first two stories and Jaglom the final one. He’d been told by Orson Welles that he needed to do a studio movie. Well, after this one, never again.

While this movie isn’t all that funny or well made, it is a significant cultural artifact, the first film after the Lampoon made one of the most important comedy movies of all time and stumbled. For lovers of comedy, it’s at least worth that historical look.

National Lampoon’s Movie Madness is available from Kino Lorber.

Seek (2020)

Estranged sisters Heidi (Allisyn Snyder, A.P. Bio) and Jordan (Claire Grant) have been driving all night when they come across a roadside park and rest stop. Inside, they both find the mysterious Lonely Child who demands that they play a game.

Seek is a short that looks gorgeous thanks to practical effects by two-time Academy Award nominee Arjen Tuiten (Wonder, Pan’s Labyrinth and Ghostbusters: Afterlife) based on concept designs by WETA Workshop plus VFX by Rogelio Salinas and Todd Perry (Black Panther, Avengers, Doctor Strange).

Steve Agee makes a brief appearance and Sarah Anne Williams plays the Lonely Child. The filmmakers say that this is just a small part of a much larger mythology, with the goal of telling the full and terrify

You can learn more at the official site and watch the short here:

SALEM HORROR FEST: The Lovers (2021)

A roommate stuck in a codependent cycle finds her burgeoning romance might lead to something unexpected. And when she brings her new man home, perhaps both she and her roommate might find some enjoyment out of him. Sure, I should have expected the ending, but it hit me just right. And I’m not going to spoil it for you.

Director and writer Avra Fox-Lerner knows something that very few filmmakers do this day: brevity is the soul of wit. This is just the right length and I’m not saying that in the way women do to make us men feel better.

I saw The Lovers as part of Salem Horror Fest, where you can watch several shorts and features with their virtual pass now until the end of October. You can read more about Meta at the official site.

SALEM HORROR FEST: Meta (2020)

During senior prom, Artie is excited to see if he’s won prom king — despite not believing that his school would vote in a transguy — just as he gets his period. And then, well, he transforms all over again in order to deal with bullies.

I’m somewhat fascinated that the prom scene in Carrie gets referenced in transgender narratives. Someone asked me the other day why so many in the LGBTQ world love horror so much and my assumption — I’d love to learn more — is that the fear of the other is something dealt with every day. Enjoying a world where the other is everyday and often triumphs against normalcy seems way better than normal life.

That said — this is an interesting film and it’s great to see so much representation within Salem Horror Fest. Directed by Sydne Horton and written by Savannah Ward, it has the right tones of humor, horror and understanding.

I saw Meta as part of Salem Horror Fest, where you can watch several shorts and features with their virtual pass now until the end of October. You can read more about Meta at the official site.

SALEM HORROR FEST: LandLocked (2021)

Are the movies trying to tell me something?

I’ve watched multiple films in the last few weeks where people try to go back home again and set things right. This never works out.

What am I to learn?

Directed and written by Paul Owens, LandLocked brings his family into the film, playing fictionalized versions of themselves, as well as appearing in their old home movies which have become part of the narrative.

When Mason (Mason Owens) takes on the task of clearing out his father’s home, he discovers those films on an old video camera and begins to grow obsessed with the footage that he starts to watch and learn and document the past.

So yeah, you may be watching a family’s old films and the film feels long even though it has a short running time. But the idea of a camera that can show you any moment in time you ask for is solid, the footage works within the film and you can see what the director was going for. Nostalgia is dangerous (or a profitable place to make a movie) is the message and yes, while you can go home again, you probably shouldn’t.

I saw LandLocked as part of Salem Horror Fest, where you can watch several shorts and features with their virtual pass now until the end of October.

SALEM HORROR FEST: Lair (2021)

Ben (Oded Fehr) is in prison for murdering his wife and daughter, but his lawyer Wendy Coulson (Alexandra Gilbreath) is convinced that demonic possession is the cause. So how do you prove that in court? Steven, whose cursed object may have made Ben a killer, has created an apartment filled with multiple objects with the same demonic hold and rents it out to Carly (Alana Wallace), Maria (Aislinn De’Ath) and her daughters Joey (Anya Newall) and Lilly (Lara Mount). Now, that family’s demons are about to meet very real ones.

Adam Ethan Crow has some interesting ideas in here and it feels like this inhabits the same world as The Conjuring films while having a more progressive family at its center. While Steven and Ben have been faking ghost incidents for years, the air bob filled with occult objects actually begins to show them what the unknown really is.

Steven is as repellant a character as you’ll find, his plan is one made to unravel and woe be to the normal family caught within. If you enjoy possession and paranormal films, you’ll definitely enjoy this one, however.

Lair is now playing Salem Horror Fest, where you can watch several shorts and features with their virtual pass now until the end of October.

SALEM HORROR FEST: Hall (2020)

When a hotel hallway is ravaged by a mysterious virus — yes, if you’re looking for COVID-19 escapism, perhaps this is not your movie — pregnant tourist Naomi (Yumiko Shaku, Lt. Akane Yashiro from 2002’s Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla and Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.) and Val (Carolina Bartczak) bond over more than just their bad marriages. They’re also stuck in a hallway filled with victims, all to find Val’s daughter Kelly and perhaps get through the horror.

Made as an ode to 70s and 80s horror — obviously, this Canadian project that tells of an isolated building dealing with a disease within is going to get a Cronenberg association — the guiding question behind this film was “What would happen if vaccines were created intentionally for purposes of government control and for the profit of the pharmaceutical industry, not necessarily to cure viruses?”

Director/co-writer Francesco Giannini first full-length feature shows a confidence many won’t have five movies in. This is a claustrophobic and dark movie that just plain works.

Hall is now playing Salem Horror Fest where you can watch several shorts and features with their virtual pass now until the end of October. You can learn more about Hall at the official site.

2021 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 25: Dark Mansions (1986)

25. SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE*: Sleep deprived and still alive… for now. (*Does not have to be set in Seattle)

Hey all — just got back from Seattle, then a week quarantine from Becca who got COVID-19, which is pretty much like me being normal because all I did was sit in my basement and write about movies and here I am, still writing about movies.

Produced by Aaron Spelling and Douglas S. Cramer, Dark Mansions had the elevator speech of “kind of like Dynasty if it were Dark Shadows,” which is to say, it’s Dark Shadows. It was also not picked up for a series and back in the wonderful days of 1986, if that didn’t happen, we got the burn off TV movie and would say, “Man, I wish that was a series.” But even if it was, it would have lasted ten episodes and a bunch would have only played in Europe and I’d still be writing this article, just slightly different.

That said — Joan Fontaine as reclusive matriarch Margaret Drake! Linda Purl from Visiting Hours! Melissa Sue Anderson fromLittle House on the Prarie (and the voice of Snowbird from Alpha Flight on the X-Men cartoon and yes, that kind of information is inside my brain)! Lois Chiles, who is both Holly Goodhead and the thanks for the ride lady from Creepshow 2!  Nicollette Sheridan! Dan O’Herilhy! Grant Aleksander (Phillip from Guiding Light)! Raymond St. Jacques (the street preacher from They Live)! Paul Shenar (Dream LoverScarface)! And a ghost haunting all of them!

Director Jerry London also did Killdozer, so there’s that. The show was written by Anthony Lawrence (who speaking of shows that died before their time also created The Phoenix), his wife Nancy and Robert McCullough, who wrote for Falcon Crest and that helped with this I guess.

A lot gets set up. Nothing gets resolved. And that’s how it goes for a pilot. Just think, in another reality, I’m posting the YouTube link for each episode and not just this one and done.

2021 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 25: General Massacre (1973)

DAY 25 — SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE*: Sleep deprived and still alive . . . for now. (*Does not have to be set in Seattle . . . so Belgium, works!)

Just so you know what you’re getting into with this very odd, badly acted and poorly scripted tale about a deranged (our “sleep deprived” lad) American brigadier general (our auteur, Burr Jerger) living in Belgium as he awaits trial for his atrocities committed in Vietnam: General Massacre was deemed “unacceptable” by the American Humane Association for “animals killed during filming” (a cow and a couple of ducks), upon its release in 1976 on U.S. shores. The backlash so damaging to the film, Burr Jerger, the film’s director, writer, producer, and lead actor, sued the U.S. government for “conspiracy” against this film, which he described as a “cinematic protest against war.”

Okay. Well enough, Burr. But you still harmed, maimed and killed animals to make your anti-war statement. And those “auteur” excuses didn’t fly with Ruggero Deodato butchering squirrel monkeys and river turtles to make his “statement” film, either.

Animals were killed during the making of this movie.

Anyway, when Wilbur “Burr” Jerger filed suit in 1975 in the Los Angeles federal courts, he claimed the FBI and CIA maintained an illegal dossier on him for his “political activities.” Jerger also alleged in the lawsuit, after a conspiracy born out of those files, caused the release of General Massacre to be irreparably damaged and he lost $100,000.

Who is this Burr Jerger?

Well, the West German auteur also resides in those weird, hazy frames of celluloid resided by Peter Carpenter: a vanity auteur that went all out on his masterpiece, with Jerger managing one quadruple-threat to Carpenter’s two of Blood Mania and Point of Terror. And both vanished from the business after four films when their master works, failed. And, like Carpenter, Jerger passed through the Russ Meyer turnstiles. But unlike Carpenter, Burr also passed through Jean Rollin’s turnstiles. (For another lost soul of the celluloid turnstiles, check out our overview of Gene O’Shane’s career in our review of The Velvet Vampire.)

Jerger actually stuck around for more than four films as an actor: he made five: he appeared in Captain Sindbad (1963; a West German film edited into Quentin Tarantino’s Natural Born Killers), No Survivors, Please (1964; a black and white alien invasion tale), and an uncredited appearance (thus the four-to-five snafu) in Fanny Hill (1964) for Russ Meyer. Jerger made his final acting bow in Jean Rollin’s The Demoniacs (1974; a sexploitation, haunted island/pirate romp).

Jerger initially came to Europe in 1961 as a free-lance-reporter for Show Business Illustrate, Ebony and Globe Photos. That led to his making his cinematography and directing bones as the set photographer on Escape from East Berlin (1962), as well as working as a production assistant on A Cold Wind in August (1961), and as an assistant director on the French-made films Madame Sans-Gene (1961) by Christian Jague, and Cartouche (1962) by Philippe De Broca.

However, while Burr worked on all of those films in East Germany and France, he was actually born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. Married to Lieva Lone, his co-star in The Demoniacs, he died on May 12, 1982. It was after his failures in film, that he relocated from Belgium, to Paris, and back to the United States, working as he began: a freelance writer and photographer. He would go on to write an (unnecessary) novel based on General Massacre, as well as The Saga of April 6th, and a storybook, Four Letter Words.

The Review

As with all early ’70s drive-in flicks: it made it to ’80s video.

“Politics are the extension of war.”
“Civilians are as much the enemy as men in uniform.”

— the ravings of a warmonger

We learn of those ravings via a non-linear, flashback story as our U.S. WW II and Korean War veteran awaits his trial for the atrocities he committed in Vietnam. But what’s his excuse for killing his wife (whom he met-raped during a Nazi Germany tank raid) for cheating on him (he chases her into the forest around his estate and shoots her)? And killing his daughter — whom he has the incestual hots for — when he catches her with his hospital orderly?

In between, our General goes nuts on his Antwerp estate, where he “commands” his troops and straps on his weapons and hunkers down in the woods — woods now haunted by his wife on ghostly horseback. Oh, and our General has “recruited” his old Vietnam lackey, Corporal Tsai, to film his “war games,” his hateful and racist insights on the world, and his animal murders . . . which are graphic, ugly, and down right cruel as the camera lingers as the life leaves the cow. Then, to make matters worse: there’s the close up of the duck’s eyes as its life leaves the body.

Oh, yes, for there is a “statement” in the murder of cows and ducks . . . but the proceedings are just so clumsy across all of the inept disciplines that Burr Jerger kept for himself — on top of the art house pretensions deploying every sweeping and zooming camera trick in the book known to cinematography — as we flash to and fro from 1945 Nazi Germany to our fair General’s freakout in the Antwerp wood, the “anti-war” message Jerger intended, is lost.

Yes, Burr. War is awful. But your movie, even more so. And animals died for it. Certainly not one of the proudest moments of my little ol’ VHS home library.

There’s no freebie streams or trailers to share, but you can get DVDs from DVD Planet, if you must.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

Sex and a Girl (1991)

Oh man, the 1990s. Or should I say the 70s, because that’s what this movie is really about.

Also called Alex In Wonder, this is the story of sixteen-year-old high school senior and ballerina Alex (Angela Gots). Everyone around her is obsessed with sex, from her friends to the boys in school to her parents — who pretty much run a commune — have broken up (her father is played by Robert Hayes and Ellen Greene is her mother).

What’s a girl to do?

This Drew Ann Rosenberg film feels like something I’d be watching after getting home drunk in 1991, throwing on the TV and just starting at it until slowly getting into the story. And hey — Ellen Greene was Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors and in Talk Radio, so I definitely enjoyed her work here.

Rosenberg said, “I’m incredibly excited to announce the twentieth anniversary release of our film. Set in the 1970’s, it’s a timeless story that will appeal to viewers of all ages; an homage to the late Judy Blume, a writer whose stories gave me, along with many other teenagers, a safe space to explore issues dealing with sexuality, puberty, divorce and bullying in a non-judgmental, funny and honest way. Enjoy the ride!”

Sex and a Girl is available to rent and own on North American digital HD internet, cable, and satellite platforms through Freestyle Digital Media.