I came here to see Jimmy Bryant and the Night Jumpers do the “Tobacco Worm” and the “Stratosphere Boogie” . . . and eat popcorn . . . and drink coffee. Lots of coffee. (They’re sort of a redneck, twaggy bluegrass version of Booker T. and the M.G’s; please telll me that you know the iconic instrumental “Green Onions” and get that reference. Don’t make me feel like the old dude that I am.)
“Yeah, I call B.S on the pseudointellectual B&S About Movies writer,” you say. “You never heard of them or the movie, R.D, until Sam bought the Mill Creek “Explosive Cinema” 12-pack.”
Sorry, ye mighty Internet Warrior. You’d be wrong.
Because of my longstanding love of rock ‘n’ roll and movies; slumming, collecting, and working in the vintage vinyl marketplace, doing road work, and working on the radio, I thrive, THRIVE on rock ‘n’ roll movie oddities and obscurities. If a flick has even the slightest cameo by a rock band in it, I’ve tracked down that movie and seen it. Even more so with today’s public domain catchall disc sets. Back before the digital realm, I taped ’em off UHF-TV and have shelves of 6-hour mode recorded VHS tapes packed with these flicks.
The Skydivers is the second of three films written and directed by Coleman Francis, primarily a TV and Drive-In flick bit actor who appeared on episodes of Dragnet who turned up in Russ Meyers’s Motorpsycho! and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, and had a somewhat larger part in the juvenile deliquent rock ‘n’ roll flick, 1959’s T-Bird Gang, which is just one of the many made in the backwash of 1955’s Rebel Without a Cause and Blackboard Jungle. (Now I am really missing the old AMC Network’s “American Pop” film series. Tears.) While I have never seen the riffed version, MST3K took The Skydivers to task in the ’80s; perhaps you’ve seen that version.
Skydivers is not, however, a rock ‘n’ roll or juvenile deliquent flick: it’s a bargain basement film noir of the Double Indemity (1944) and The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) variety. It does not, however, qualify as “explosive cinema” and it is as out-of-place alongside Tony Tulleners’s Scorpion (1986) on the Mill Creek “Explosive Cinema” set as it is seeing me sitting in front of a plate of sushi or inside a Starbucks. So don’t be fooled by the movie’s tagline: “The first feature length motion picture showing the daredevils of the sky who free fall from heights of 20,000 feet with only a ripcord between life and death!” (Insert yawn, here.) “Thrill jumping guys, thrill seeking girls, and daring death with every leap,” indeed.
Anyway, Anthony Cardoza . . . wait, where do I know that name from . . . holy B&S About Movies, BatSam! Tony starred in Ed Wood’s Night of the Ghouls and directed Alvy Moore (The Witchmaker) from TV’s Green Acres in Smokey and the Hotwire Gang. He’s produced, as Sam has called out, “interesting films” (aka, turkeys), such as The Beast of Yucca Flats (directed by Coleman Francis) and Bigfoot. (Coleman’s other directing efffort was 1966’s Night Train to Mundo Five, produced by, you guessed it. . . .)
Anyway, Tony-boy is the producer behind this vanity project as part of a unhappily married couple who owns a decrepit airfield-skydiving school in the middle of nowhere New Mexico. Of course, Harry is the loser-dickhead who dragged his wife Beth (don’t be confused; actress Kevin Casey, in her only role, is a “she”) out into the desert—and he’s the one who’s restless and cheats on her. And the woman, Suzy, he’s cheating with is a femme fatale (Marcia Knight, Mako: The Jaws of Death) who’s had enough, so she seduces another guy to kill him. But wait, the wife is restless as well and she’s having an affair with her husband’s army buddy.
And they plot against each other. And they jump out of planes. And they sit in coffee houses and listen to a couple tunes from Jimmy Bryant and the Night Jumpers—who are the only reason to check out this mess.
And they’re the only reason I know this movie exists. And now: you know it exists. Email your disdain to the fine folks at Eide’s Entertainment in Pittsburgh for carrying that cursed copy of the Mill Creek “Explosive Cinema” set and selling it to Sam (we love you, guys!).
You can watch TV-taped VHS rips on You Tube without the riffing, but I think you’ll need the MST3K riffed version to make it thought.
That, and a nice, strong pot of coffee. Stratosphere Boogie, babydoll!
About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook.
Even the riffed versions of Coleman Francis flicks are tough going. There’s just so much dead air.
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Again, if not for the rock ‘n’ roll connection, wouldn’t have done this one at all. And Yucca Flats was a late night UHF watch many years ago. But I have zero desire to seek out or watch Night Train to Mundo Five (well, unless it pops on a Mill Creek box set and we review the box).