Day 16 Rock ‘n’ Roll Miscreants: Give some screen time to the punks and/or metal heads
The horror-centric webzine Bloody Disgusting recently posted a story about a gritty, low-budgeted horror film, Getaway Girls, written and directed by Toran Caudell who, as a teen, found success as an actor on the WB Network and as an animated voice artist for the Disney and Nickelodeon Networks. While this writer never watched any of his TV series, I was intrigued to hear a child actor beat the so called “child actor curse” and continued to flourish in the business as an adult. Upon a further Internet-investigation of the film, it’s discovered that Toran Caudell is the son of actor-musician Lane Caudell, he the star of two of the coolest, fondly remembered films of this writer’s ‘80s UHF-TV and video store, rock ‘n’ roll youth: Goodbye, Franklin High and Hanging on a Star.
Thanks to Lane’s son, it marks the first time that old, familiar face from my youth has acted in front of the camera since eschewing the acting world after the 1982-1983 season of the NBC-TV U.S daytime serial, Days of Our Lives. (I know. I know. Yes, I watched DOOL. For reasons lost in the corners of my mind, somehow my sister negotiated “TV rights” after school, so I was stuck watching DOOL and General Hospital. Well, not really. When Diane, your sister’s very cute friend from school, plants herself in front of your TV to watch soap operas . . . teen hormones must make sacrifices. Then Jill Swanson came along. Have mercy!)
A few days after discovering the Bloody Disgusting article, a couch-grazing binge of a few episodes of A&E’s Hoarders inspired a deep dive into the long-forgotten spare bedroom and hallway closets for a belated (and “adult”), much-needed spring cleaning — closets which also hold a now lazily misfiled vinyl music and video tape collection. That domesticated archeological dig uncovered long-forgotten vinyl copies of Lane’s two MCA albums: Hanging on Star and Midnight Hunter, and (which I didn’t even know I did have in the first place) his lone 1975 album with Skyband for RCA.
Dude, it’s a sign. Toran of Malveel is recruiting you for a quest beyond the sun’s horizon. Sharpen your broadsword. Mount ye steed and ride, R.D!
As with Rick Springfield and Kim Milford before him, with Lane’s musical endeavors not bearing financial or chart fruits, he took up acting as a sideline to make financial ends meet. That’s when he met filmmaker Mike MacFarland who served as the Executive Producer on what was to become an exploitation teen-horror film classic: Satan’s Cheerleaders (1977) and Lane, in a support role, made his acting debut. And while Lane didn’t earn a role on TV’s Battlestar Galactica (Rick Springfield got the role), Lane scored the lead role in the early ‘90s TV/foreign theatrical, Star Wars-cum-Conan the Barbarian sci-fi romper, Archer: Fugitive from the Empire.
Under the managerial wing of Cal-Am Productions — which went out of business in a blaze of glory with the 1978 Drive-In slasher and later UK Section 2 Video Nasty (see the B&S Movies’ Section 2 List),The Toolbox Murders (see B&S Movies Exploring: Slahser Remakes List) — and with Mike MacFarland in the director’s chair, Lane made his debut as a leading man in the baseball comedy-drama, Goodbye, Franklin High, and the rock ‘n’ roll follow up, Hanging on a Star. Both films were backed by the Great Lion of Hollywood: MGM Studios.
On the DVD commentary for Satan’s Cheerleaders, director Greydon Clark stated Mike MacFarland offered an additional $25,000 to the production for a producer credit and if Clark would use Lane Caudell in a role, who he was considering for a lead in a film he would direct, which became Goodbye, Franklin High. The extra money improved the film’s production values, allowing Clark to sign a SAG contract and hire recognized SAG actors in John Carradine (Revenge, the sequel to Blood Cult — part of B&S Movies’ 2019 Halloween “Slasher Month,” look for it — and Evils of the Night), Yvonne deCarlo (The Silent Scream, Sam’s “Slasher” review is on the way!), and John Ireland (Incubus and The House of Seven Corpses), along with Charlie Chaplin’s Tony Award-winning acting son, Sydney, and noted TV character actor, Jack Kruschen.
While there are two songs, “One for All and All for One” and “Who You Gonna Love Tonight,” by a band known as Sonoma in Satan’s Cheerleaders, it is unknown if Caudell was involved with the production of those songs. Greydon Clark makes no mention of the songs in his commentary or if Caudell assisted on the soundtrack. And while Caudell provided several songs to Goodbye, Franklin High, no official soundtrack or promotional 45-rpm singles were released to radio or retail.
Sadly, today’s nostalgic film critics lump Goodbye, Franklin High with the glut of teen exploitation flicks (that’s a B&S Movies’ Week unto itself, eh, Sam?) haunting drive-Ins in the ‘70s, such as The Pom Pom Girls (1976), The Van (1977), Malibu Beach (1978), and Swap Meet, Van Nuys Blvd., H.O.T.S, and Gas Pump Girls (all 1979). In reality, Goodbye, Franklin High lacks any of those films’ American Graffiti-inspired T&A foolishness to tell a tale with a softer, ABC Afterschool Special-styled storyline (ah, ‘70s kids’ television!) about a young man facing his future: go to college or play pro-ball? The film actually has more in common with one of Sam Elliot’s earliest dramatic film rolls (Roadhouse, Ghost Rider), Lifeguard (1978; search for that incredible film!), itself a coming-of-age drama of dealing with one’s future, than with any of the T&A brethren released during the same period.
Then, Cal-Am Productions (seriously, The Toolbox Murders guys!) in conjunction with MCA Records and MGM Studios, customized a project that would spotlight not only Lane’s acting chops, but his music abilities as well. That film was later to become a U.S UHF-TV and video store classic, Hanging on a Star, a comedic chronicle of “The Jeff Martin Band,” a hot rock band on their way up the charts. In a teen-idol doppelganger: Leif Garrett also starred in a teen drive-In rock flick of his own, Thunder Alley (an Option 3: 2019 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge: Day 16 entry!), which made the rounds on cable, UHF-TV, and video store shelves in the ‘80s. Rick Springfield eventually starred in his own, similar rock flick: the critically lambasted Hard to Hold.
Six years after issuing his first solo single in 1972, Lane finally released his first solo album proper: Hanging on a Star. Although several songs from the album also appeared in its companion film, the album was not marketed as an official soundtrack. Sadly, while a well-devised dual marketing plan, neither the album nor the film lit up the charts or box office. The film did find a subsequent, enthusiastic audience on U.S cable television, which led to Lane’s fans — including this writer — to posthumously purchasing copies of the album in the used record store aftermarket — just like we did with Matt Dillion’s film debut, Over the Edge; it’s how we discovered Cheap Trick, Van Halen, the Cars, and the Ramones (and get that Little Feat crap the hell out of here!).
Lane would go onto receive his first starring TV role alongside Jerry Reed in 1979’s Good ‘Ol Boys, a TV movie that served as a series pilot to capitalize on Reed’s then massive popularity stemming from his work on Smokey and the Bandit — and to catch a little nip of that The Dukes of Hazzard moonshine madness. Lane’s next NBC pilot was starring alongside U.S television mainstay William Conrad, loved by audiences for his work as Detective Joe Cannon in Cannon. A cross between Conrad’s two famed TV characters (the other from his later hit series, Jack and the Fatman), the 1980 series would have starred Conrad as ex-L.A police lieutenant, Bill Battles, who takes a job at Hawaii State University as the head of its Campus Police Unit — and as an assistant football coach. Lane, co-starring as the team’s quarterback, would have been the crime-solving side kick in, Battles.
However, courtesy of the success of Star Wars igniting a renewed interest in science fiction and old fashioned sword ‘n’ sorcery action-fantasies, Universal and NBC-TV developed Archer: Fugitive from the Empire, which starred Lane as a prince on a distant planet accused of murdering his father-king; equipped with a magic ‘n’ deadly crossbow, he teamed up with Belinda Bauer (schwing!) as his Princess Leia/Red Sonja for a series of weekly adventures. Known under several other titles in its overseas theatrical distribution, Archer made it to series, but was too costly to produce to justify against its low ratings in the U.S marketplace.
Continuing his relationship with the NBC-TV family, Lane ended his acting career with a one-season recurring role on the highly-rated U.S daytime drama, The Days of Our Lives. Between his work on U.S daytime television and making his return to the big screen in his son Toran’s horror film, Getaway Girls, he became a mover and shaker as a songwriter, music publisher, and session musician in the country music marketplace.
Sadly, Hanging on Star and Goodbye, Franklin High — like this writer’s two cherished Kim Milford rock movies, Song of the Succubus and Rock-a-Die Baby (a Halloween 2019 “Slasher Month” entry, look for it!), haven’t been in reruns on U.S television UHF stations in close to 40 years.
Hanging on a Star made it to VHS tape. In all the years of this writer haunting video stores and the video cut out bins of libraries and vintage vinyl outlets, an official VHS version of Goodbye, Franklin High has yet to appear — although taped-from-broadcast TV clips of the film have appeared on video sharing sites. This writer once owned two used copies of Hanging on a Star: one tape swelled up from moisture and molded-out; the tape of its replacement shredded into pieces inside the VCR. A home-taped version of Goodbye, Franklin High — sandwiched between Wes Craven’s Chiller (starring Michael Beck of The Warriors), Circle of Iron (starring David Carradine and Jeff Cooper), and Over the Edge (starring Matt Dillon) — burnt out into blue-screen mode.
It’s been almost 20 years since I’ve seen either of Lane’s films. It seems that, unlike The Toolbox Murders, both of Lane’s cherished leading roles for Cal-Am Productions seem to be lost — forever. Will we Lane Caudell fans ever see a DVD release of Goodbye, Franklin High or Hanging on a Star? It seems there is hope: A company by the name of Park Circus/Arts Alliance, a film distribution company that deals a classic back catalog of films from the 1970s and 1980s, shows both of Lane’s films in their catalog. Then, during the course of my off-the-rails insane research for my Lane Caudell thesis over on Medium, I discovered screen caps from Goodbye, Franklin High with TV transmission watermarks for THIS-TV, a U.S-based free-to-air cable network launched in 2008 and owned in part by MGM Studios — the studio that originally distributed Lane’s films in 1978. Most of the channel’s on-air product is from the MGM vaults.
So we Lane Caudell fans will cross our fingers in the hope that Park Circus and MGM Studio will reissue both films as a double DVD — complete with in-depth interview vignettes featuring Lane and his co-stars, along with commentary tracks from Lane.
And that’s why B&S Movies exists: Courtesy of those retro-digital reissue companies, such as the fine folks at Arrow Video and guys like Massacre Video’s Louis C. Justin and Vinegar Syndrome’s Joe Rubin, preserving those lost ‘70s drive-In and ‘80s VHS home video classics of our glorious misspent youths. Did I just kiss up, that is to say, suck enough digital ass for you guys release Lane’s films in a DVD tribute pack now? Get to the restoration Bat Cave already, Robin!
You can learn more — way too much more — about Lane’s music and acting endeavors, augmented with lots of photos and music, over on Medium with the article, “Lost Somewhere on the Road between Franklin High and Nashville: The Life and Career of Lane Caudell.”
You never thought you’d learn about the Roger Wilson (Thunder Alley) and Lane Caudell teen-idol connections to the video nasties The Slayer and The Toolbox Murders during the 2019 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge, did you? That’s how B&S About Movies rolls.