APRIL MOVIE THON 2: Gizmo (1977)

April 27: Until You Call on the Dark — Pick a movie from the approved movies list of the Church of Satan. Here’s the list.

Howard Smith started his career as a journalist and is best known for his column “Scenes,” which ran weekly for twenty years and became known for its cutting-edge coverage of the emerging counterculture. Not only did he report on the Stonewall Riots, he was inside the building as it happened. He also produced and directed,  along with Sarah Kernochan, one of my favorite documentaries ever, Marjoe.

This is a movie of clips, mostly concerning inventors trying to be the one that changes the world. And it’s also about stunt people who challenged that world, like John Ciampa, who was known as the Human Fly, the Flying Phantom and the Brooklyn Tarzan. He was an early parkour athlete before anyone even knew what that was and he was used by Paramount to publicize their Tarzan movies. In this film, you can see him enjoy dinner with his family before he climbs trees, leaps across buildings and even uses a drainpipe to scale a building.

You’ve seen the photo of Frank “Cannonball” Richards, but do you know his name? Gizmo shows more of him, a man who twice a day was shot in the stomach with a hundred pound cannonball.

Narrated by Milt Moss and written by Kathleen Cox, Nicholas Hollander (who would go on to write Animaniacs) and Clark Whelton, this film ends with this: “Maybe there are three kinds of people in this world, those who make it, those who don’t, and those who criminate in this movie. They believe in the impossible, and they try to make it chorus in. Because in the heart, when you want to trade in life, you find the mountain, in the failure of triumph. Because in the heart, people see air and I know, if you have the thing to go, reason hard to see, the corona star, the spirit, the mountain, and man’s Rex afore. Or to say it another way, man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”

Most of the newsreel footage in this movie had no dialogue. A lip reader was hired to determine what they said and actors dubbed in the dialogue. Two of the songs, “Let It Go” and “Somewhere” were written by J. Stephen Soles and his wife at the time, P.J. Totally.

How is this a Satanic film? Anton LaVey loved ballyhoo, which this is full of, and strange inventions, such as the automatons of Dr. Cecil Nixon, a dentist who created Isis, Galatea and more creations that he kept in his San Francisco mansion, The House of a Thousand Mysteries.

You can download this from the Internet Archive.

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