Don’t Open the Door (1974)

Don’t Open the Door! was originally released regionally in Texas under the title Don’t Hang Up in May 1974. It was then acquired by Capital Films Corporation, who re-released it in 1979.

Director S.F. Brownrigg made this movie with producer Martin Jurow (Breakfast at Tiffany’s), using a cast mainly made up of actors from Dallas-based actors.

The story is simple: young girl returns home to care for her sick grandmother and encounters weirdness at every turn. It’s Brownrigg’s skill that makes this movie unique.

Despite the lurid feel of this movie, it still has a PG rating. Life was cheaper in 1974.

Susan Bracken plays Amanda Post, who begins the film assured and cocky before returning to Allerton, the Texas town where she watched her mother get killed as a child. This would be the only theatrical film Bracken would do and it’s a shame because she’s great in this.

We live in a world of caller ID that renders so much of this movie a moot point, such as the reveal that the calls are coming from within the house. While that trope replays itself in so many 70’s horror films, I always find it so delightful.

Larry O’Dwyer, who plays the sinister Claude, was done with acting after this movie too. Again, a shame.

If you were born later than me, you may find this movie slow moving and not as filled with terror as you hope, particularly with the sinister VHS cover image that I attached to this review. Not all movies need to have a killing every two minutes and have geysers of gore. This movie does so much more with less.

If you want to know more about this movie and where it was filmed, watch my friend J.H. Rood’s film Don’t on the Internet Archive.

BONUS: You can listen to Bill Van Ryn, J.H. and me discuss this movie on the second week of our streaming web show, Drive-In Asylum Double Feature.

Brain Damage (1988)

Beyond being a historian of exploitation films, Frank Henenlotter has made some outright insane movies like Frankenhooker and Basket Case. What other kind of mad genius would hire horror host Zacherle to be a worm named Aylmer, who creates drug-like relationships with his hosts while demanding to eat the brains of everyone they love?

That blue phallic worm secretes a highly addictive hallucinogen directly into the brain, forcing Brian to leave behind his life, his girlfriend and any hope of normalcy, all while being pursued by the old couple that had imprisoned the parasite and who know way too much of his history, leading to some of the longest and most hilarious expository dialogue I’ve seen in a film.

During the fellatio scene — yes, a woman puts Aylmer inside her mouth — the crew walked out, refusing to work on the scene.

There’s a great moment where Duane and Belail from Basket Case meet Brian on a train before he ends up killing his girlfriend. I realize that’s a spoiler, but nothing can prepare you for this movie. It’s truly one of a kind.

You can watch this on Tubi or on Shudder with and without commentary by Joe Bob Briggs.

The Firm (1993)

Jonathan Grisham had two books turned into movies in 1993, with the other being The Pelican Brief. This one is directed by Sydney Pollack and has a pretty big cast between Tom Cruise, Holly Hunter, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Gene Hackman, Ed Harris, Paul Sorvino, Gary Busey and Hal Holbrook.

Mitch McDeere (Cruise) is ready to graduate from Harvard when he gets an offer from small Memphis attorneys Bendini, Lambert & Locke. They ask for strict loyalty and confidentiality. They charge their clients high fees, which Mitch loves, because he gets an amazing house, a new car and his student loans all paid off.

He learns the secret that not all of their clients are legal, so Wilfred Brimley gets him laid and uses the photos to keep him in line. Cruise’s character, however, can’t deal with it all and decides to go to the feds, who are just as shady as the criminals.

In the original script, Mitch is killed. Once Cruise signed on, the ending changed. That’s how things work in Hollywood.

Richard Jewell (2019)

Paul Walter Hauser got known for playing Shawn Eckhardt in I, Tanya. Here, he’s playing another real life media story, the character this movie is named for, Richard Jewell.

This is directed by Clint Eastwood, who does one take for every scene and people love him for it. Yes, the same reason these same people made fun of Ed Wood.

As much as this movie presents the media killing the life of Jewell, it does the very same thing to reporter Kathy Scruggs, who died of a prescription drug overdose in 2001.

There’s a scene where she offers sex to Jon Hamm’s FBI agent in exchange for information, a moment that the editor-in-chief of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution stated was “entirely false and malicious.” Employees of the newspaper went even further, claiming that the movie should have a disclaimer that “some events were imagined for dramatic purposes and artistic license.”

Olivia Wilde defended the film and wondered why no one held Hamm’s character to the same standard. That’s probably because his character, Tom Shaw, is a composite based on many people and not an actual person who lived and breathed and left behind people that cared for her.

That makes it hard to believe in this film’s defense of Jewell when it commits the very same attacks on Scruggs. That said, Hauser is good and I always enjoy seeing Sam Rockwell show up.

Hook (1991)

Sure, Steven Spielberg directed this movie, but it was developed by James V. Hart (Bram Stoker’s Dracula) and the man who hoped that he would direct it, Nick Castle. Yes, the same person who played Michael Meyers. Instead of this movie, he’d direct Dennis the Menace and get a story credit.

Seriously, let me blow your mind. Nick Castle also directed Major Payne and Mr. Wrong, a movie all about Ellen DeGeneres having bad luck dating men.

I’m the wrong person to discuss this movie, as I’ve never enjoyed it. My hatred for Robin Williams is pretty well known. Julia Roberts being involved makes this a double threat to my sanity.

But Sam, Phil Collins is in it, I hear you say. What, no one said that? Am I hearing voices again?

Spielberg has mentioned several times how much he dislikes this movie, feeling that he had no real feel for the story beyond the start of the story and that he just made the movie bigger and more colorful to make up for his insecurity with making the film. He was happy that he made it, because it allowed him to become friends with Williams.

Becca absolutely loves this movie, remembering exactly where she saw it as a kid and how many times she rented it. I don’t say anything when we watch it, because it makes her happy and really, that’s what being in a relationship is all about.

Blood and Lace (1971)

If you’re wondering, “How did a movie about a teenage girl whose prostitute mother was killed with a hammer and now lives in an orphanage where people getting their hands cut off get a PG rating,” you’re not alone. This is one of the roughest, scummiest movies I’ve watched, no matter the rating.

Ellie (Melody Patterson, F Troop) is that girl, now stuck in the orphanage of Mrs. Deere (Gloria Grahame), which she runs like a sweatshop with the help of the sweaty, swarthy Kredge (Len Lesser, Uncle Leo from Seinfeld).

Beyond that trauma, they’re also keeping dead kids in a giant freezer along with Mrs. Deere’s husband, who she refuses to believe is deceased. There’s also a dirty cop named Carruthers (Vic Tayback) who pursues Ellie in a way that it’s obvious that he has no good intentions in mind.

The only innocent seems to be Pete (Dennis Christopher), but once he falls for another girl named Bunch, Ellie has no one. Well, no one but that killer who keeps showing up staring at her while she sleeps as he clutches a hammer.

Stick around. Things get even sicker from there between those two, as if that were possible.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime.

Girls Just Want to Have Blood (2020)

When Jessica, a wayward trailer park teen with a drunk n’ abusive momma, is accepted by a trio of “party all night” female vamps, she enters a nocturnal world of murder and mayhem. As they stalk clubs and bars for victims—and avoid a notorious vampire hunter—Jessica comes find her inner “girl power.”

Based on its original title of Teenage Bloodsuckin’ Bimbos, and the John Carpenter-esque keyboard noodling, Z-grade ‘80s-styled metal, and its VHS-styled opening titles and end credits sequence, you know what you’re getting into: a campy send-up of ‘80s Troma-style gore films. And there’s bonus points for dredging up our vinyl memories of the Canadian joke-metal band Piledriver by including “Metal Inquisition” on the soundtrack.

Girls Just Want to Have Blood made its world premiere at last year’s New Jersey Film Festival and found distribution with Red Eye Releasing with a DVD and VOD release on May 26th.

Disclaimer: This was sent to us by the film’s PR company.

Hard Rock Zombies (1985)

Evil LaughAmerican Drive-In. Hard Rock Zombies. These are the legacy of producer/director Krishna Shah. This movie is…well, there’s never been a movie exactly like this. I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether or not that’s a good or bad thing.

Jessie, Tommy, Chuck and Bobby are Holy Moses and in order to impress a music business bigwig, they decide to go to a town that has outlawed rock and roll. Of course, these towns were everywhere in the wake of Footloose because they saw how well that went.

The town they pick — Grand Guignol is the name, which is only slightly more subtle than Nilbog — has not only outlawed music, but it’s also full of evil dwarves, sex perverts and not just Nazis, but Hitler and Eva Braun who has become a knife-carrying werewolf who lets other men have sex with her while she cucks Der Fuhrer.

The band gets killed, but thanks to the fact that their new song was based on an occult prayer, they come back to life and bring the town’s dead back from the choir invisible to kill everyone else.

Jessie is also in love with a young fan named Cassie, who is all of 12. So there’s that. And he’s the good guy.

This movie was supposed to be only twenty minutes long and appear as the movie within a movie for American Drive-In. Someone decided to spend a little more cash and finish the film.

How much do we love this movie? We also reviewed it as part of our weekly Drive-In Friday feature for a “Heavy Metal Horror Night” alongside the likes of Monster Dog, Blood Tracks, Terror on Tour, and Rocktober Blood.

You can watch Hard Rock Zombies on YouTube:

Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976)

We live in a magical reality, the kind of place where Michael Winner, the same man who made some of the roughest films ever — Death WishDeath Wish 2Death Wish 3The MechanicThe Sentinel — made this movie that’s a kind of, sort of biography of Hollywood star dog Rin Tin Tin.

It was originally called Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Warner Bros. before Paramount bought the film and, well, the movie had to change its name, right?

Estie Del Ruth (Madeline Kahn) has made her way to Hollywood, followed by a dog named Won Ton Ton. While she has dreams of being a star — and a director who continually and unsuccessfully pitches movies that will be made many years later named Grayson Potchuck (Bruce Dern) tries to help — the truth is that the dog has all the talent.

This is less a film than a collection of vignettes about the Golden Age of Hollywood, such as Ron Leibman’s effeminate take on Rudolph Valentino and Art Carney, Phil Silvers and Teri Garr as players in the tale of Estie and Won Ton Ton.

The draw for me — beyond how strange it is that Winner directed this comedy misfire — is the huge cast of Hollywood legends, many of whom made this movie their final role. Here are as many as I could remember:

Dorothy Lamour: One-time star of the Hope and Crosby Road movies, she shows up here as a visiting film star.

Joan Blondell: Often cast as a gold digger, Blondell’s career stretched back to vaudeville. She’d appear in two more movies after this: The Champ and Grease.

Virginia Mayo: Warner Brothers’ biggest box-office money-maker in the late 1940s, Mayo continued acting until 1997. She was one of the first actresses to be awarded a star on the Walk of Fame.

Henny Youngman: The rapid-fire standup who would always say, “Take my wife…please.”

Rory Calhoun: Readers of this site will definitely know Calhoun, as he reinvented himself in the 80’s, appearing in genre films like Motel HellHell Comes to Frogtown and the first two Angel films.

Aldo Ray: Much like Calhoun, Ray appeared in just about every genre film he could in the later part of his career. Shock ‘Em DeadHuman ExperimentsThe GloveDon’t Go Near the ParkHaunts…I can and will go on.

Nancy Walker: This star of Rhoda would go on to direct an even bigger bomb than this: Can’t Stop the Music, the unreal story of the Village People.

Ethel Merman: Playing Hedda Parsons here, Merman was considered the First Lady of musical comedy.

Rhonda Fleming: Her name in this movie is Rhoda Flaming, which is…par for the course of this film. She was known as the Queen of Technicolor for how well she filmed.

Dean Stockwell: If you only know him from Quantum Leap, I’d recommend you check out his roles in To Live and Die in L.A. and Married to the Mob.

Tab Hunter: Known for his clean-cut, boy next door looks, his later years are marked by interesting turns, such as playing Mary Hartman’s dad on the spin-off Forever Fernwood and appearing Divine in Polyester (1981) and Paul Bartel’s Lust in the Dust.

Dick Haymes: This big band vocalist sang in the session where Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters recorded both “There’s No Business Like Show Business” and “Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better).”

Robert Alda: Yes, he’s Alan’s dad. But you knew that. And you also knew that he played Father Michael in Mario Bava’s House of Exorcism.

Victor Mature: This would be the actor’s last major role; he also shows up in a cameo at the end of Winner’s film Firepower.

Edgar Bergen: As Professor Quicksand, this is one of his few roles not holding one of his trademark partners like Charlie McCarthy or Mortimer Snerd. He’s also in The Phynx, which still blows my mind.

Henry Wilcoxon: You may not know that he was very involved with the films of Cecil B. DeMille, but you do know him as the priest caught in a rainstorm in Caddyshack.

Yvonne DeCarlo: In 1950, the Camera Club of America voted her “Sexnicolor Queen of the Screen.” You know those guys — the pre-Internet creeps that’d hire women to pose for them as they stood around en masse. DeCarlo is better known as Lily Munster, she also appears in the kind of movies that this creep enjoys, namely Satan’s CheerleadersSilent ScreamPlay DeadGuyana: Cult of the DamnedAmerican Gothic and Mirror, Mirror.

There are literally dozens and dozens of stars here, so get ready…

Edward Le Veque (the last surviving member of The Keystone Kops); William Benedict (Whitey of The Bowery Boys); Huntz Hall of The Dead End Kids; silent stars Carmel Myers, Dorothy Gulliver, Maytag repairman Jesse White; comedians Jack Carter and Shecky Greene; Marilyn Monroe rival Barbara Nichols; Variety columnist Army Archerd; Fernando Lamas; Zsa Zsa Gabor; Cyd Charisse, whose legs were once insured for $5 million dollars; Doodles Weaver (who also shows up in plenty of insane movies like The Zodiac Killer); cowboy actor Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez; Dick Van Dyke Show co-star Morey Amsterdam; Monroe/JFK scandal magnet Peter Lawford; Eddie Foy Jr.; Patricia Morison; The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok star Guy Madison; John Carradine as a drunk (yes, I realize that this is an easy target; I also realize that I watch at least one movie with Carradine in it a day); Regis Toomey, who is also in another dog of a film C.H.O.M.P.S.; Ann Rutherford (Gone with the Wind); Milton Berle (once perhaps the most famous person in entertainment); Keye Luke (a founding member of the Screen Actors’ Guild as well as the original Brak on Space Ghost and Mr. Wing from Gremlins); Walter Pidgeon (he’d be in one more movie, the Mae West vehicle Sextette); character actors Phil Leeds and Cliff Norton as dogcatchers; Winnie the Pooh’s original voice Sterling Holloway; two of the Ritz brothers; Edward Ashley (Professor Sutherland from Waxwork); Fritz Feld (who is also in The Phynx); George Jessel; Ken Murray; Stepin Fetchit (considered to be the first African-American to have a successful acting career, now seen as an example of how Hollywood treated minorities); Tarzan actor Johnny Weissmuller; Louis Nye; Dennis Morgan; William Demarest (Uncle Charley from My Three Sons); Billy Barty who plays an assistant director; Ricardo Montalban; Jackie Coogan; Roy Rogers’ sidekick Andy Devine; Broderick Crawford (of his many movies, I’ll let on that Harlequin is one of my favorites); Richard Arlan; Jack La Rue; former pro wrestler “Iron” Mike Mazurki; as well as singers Dennis Day, Janet Blair, Jane Connell, Ann Miller, Rudy Vallee and Gloria DeHaven.

When Augustus von Schumacher attended the premiere — he was the dog who played the lead role — he walked in with Mae West. Now that’s how you become a star.

As for the movie — unless you’re someone like me that gets excited about cameos, you’re going to hate it.

Kingpin (1996)

When I was a kid, Beaver Valley Bowl always seemed so intimidating. How strange then that it’s the place where Roy Munson has his hand smashed and his bowling career ruined. I never had such a bad time there myself, but you always felt like something could go badly. That scene where they walk up the steps and Roys asks, “People bowl here?” They didn’t fake a single thing about that place. It has always looked that frightening.

Kingpin is filmed in and around the bowling alleys of Pittsburgh. You can see just about every major lane in the film, other than my favorite, the Hollywood Show Lanes inside Arsenal Lane with their giant photo of Telly Savalas, autographed with “Who loves you, baby?”

I’m sure that everyone has seen this movie, but you’d do well to watch it again and appreciate the magic that is Bill Murray in this movie. Every single moment he’s on screen is perfect. That scene where he bowls three strikes in a row? That’s real. He also ad libbed just about every line in the entire movie.

It’s worth remembering that before assassins began hunting down Randy Quaid, he was a pretty wonderful comedic actor. This is also probably one of the first times that many realized who Lin Shaye was.

At one point, Michael Keaton was to play Munson, with Chris Farley as Ishmael and Charles Rocket as Big Earl. Jim Carrey was another choice to play the evil bowler.

It’s also worth noting that the character Seabass from Dumb and Dumber (played by Cam Neely) is a confirmed relative of this movie’s Skidmark, who is Roger Clemens.

Many of the lanes in this movie are gone. We’ll always have this movie to remember them by.