Immortal (1995)

So, after reviewing the North Carolina-shot rock flicks Rockin’ Road Trip (that featured Marietta, Georgia’s Guadalcanal Diary) and Bandwagon (shot by and featuring members of Raleigh, North Carolina’s the Connells) for our latest “Rock ‘n’ Roll Week,” I recalled this SOV vampire obscurity also shot in North Carolina — and it stars another of that state’s alt-rock ’90s musicians: Greg Humphreys of Mammoth Records’ Dillon Fence, who hailed from the city of Chapel Hill.

Yeah, I know. “Who?” you ask. “Where?”

Oh, Chapel Hill and Raleigh-Durham North Carolina. What might have been. Damn, you Pacific Northwest, with your Seattle to Portland flannel and Doc Martins tomfoolery.

The scene is now! Get the Athens out of here, Stipe.

The scene fermenting in that southern local college town dates back to the early ’80s, when all ears learned towards Athens, Georgia — the city that unleashed ubiquitous college rockers R.E.M on our pre-MTV radios. Then, with MTV in full swing, we came to discover Jason & the Scorchers (“Absolutely, Sweet Marie”), and then, with grunge mania in full swing — as record companies searched for instant “Nirvana” — a band that named their album after a toilet manufacture and their band name inspired by TV’s CHiPs, Seven Mary Three, continues to rock our classic rock radios with their one-hit wonder, “Cumbersome.” And, in keeping with the grunge era: one of alt-rocks most respected bands — connected to the history of Nirvana, the “Dirty Nirvana,” if you will — the Melvins, signed with the label that gave us these sounds . . . and those heard in this movie.

That label was Mammoth Records based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, a label noted as the first independent label (before Epitaph hit it big with the Offspring and that annoying “Come Out and Play” drek that leaves me wanting the loathsome Spin Doctors . . . and I loath them, as well) to produce not one, but two platinum records. The first, of course, was American Standard by Seven Mary Three. The second was by Chapel Hill’s Squirrel Nut Zippers, which released six albums with Mammoth from 1994 to 2000; their second album, Hot, released in 1996 — as the alt-rock craze inspired by Nirvana began to cool (and Mammoth ended their distribution deal with Atlantic Records; they were briefly under the RCA umbrella) — became Mammoth’s second platinum record. If you picked up copies of the soundtrack to The Crow (1994) and The Crow: City of Angels (1996), you heard the sounds of Mammoth’s Machines of Loving Grace and Seven Mary Three alongside the bigger hit sounds of Nine Inch Nails, Rage Against the Machine, Hole, and White Zombie. The mid-90s U.S. TV series My So Called Life spun the likes of the label’s Frente!, the Chainsaw Kittens, and Juliana Hatfield.

Other Mammoth artists you may know came courtesy of the oft-played MTV’s 120 Minutes spins of the Chainsaw Kittens, while the channel’s Headbanger’s Ball spun Fu Manchu. And, back in the days of the mainstream press needing grungy fodder for their pages, you may have come to know Juliana Hatfield (who recorded for the label with the Blake Babies; the band turned into the very cool Antenna when she went solo) as result of her relationship with the Lemonheads’ Evan Dando; they were, sort of, a safer Kurt and Courtney-light, if you will. (In addition to those bands, my personal favorites from the Mammoth roster, which I had the pleasure of spinning my alt-radio days, were Dash Rip Rock, Machines of Loving Grace, Vanilla Trainwreck, and . . . Dillon Fence.) Unable to reach the heights of most the label’s other artists — or fellow scenesters the Connells (who made it to late night network television, to no avail), Dillon Fence, as lead by Greg Humphreys, released three (really fine) albums: Rosemary (1992), Outside In (1993), and the one that should have broke then nationally, Living Room Scene (1994), which fell under Atlantic’s East/West alt-imprint through Mammoth.

Okay. Okay. I know. Get to the movie, already, R.D.

If you haven’t figured it out, writer/director Walter Michael Bost (with an assist from the one-and-gone Steven D. White) was raised in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, (another scenester hotspot) and went to college at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, majoring in Radio, Television and Motion Pictures and Business Administration.

From his humble beginnings with Immortal, Bost developed a still-going-strong career working in various capacities — mostly in the sound departments — for over 70 films and TV series, most notably U.S. TV’s Felicity, The District, Veronica Mars, and iZombie. He returned to writing and directing with the recent streaming series, The New 30.

So, as with the Connells’ John Schultz logically working within his (then) means, writing what he knew, and around locations he knew he could secure — and with his friends-on-the-cheap cast and crew (including Greg Humphreys of Dillon Fence; Mammoth label head Jay Faires provided the soundtrack) — Bost decided, we’re guessing, to combine two of his loves: the North Carolina music scene he haunted and the vampire movies that haunted his youth. (Did you sleep with towels around your neck, Walt? I sure as hell did.)

Of course, as with A Matter of Degrees and Bandwagon before it, when news of this North Carolina-indie rockin’ with all of the alt-rock bands we loved (Archers of Loaf! Reverb-o-Ray! Dillon Fence! Squirrel Nut Zippers! — each who appear on stage in the film) hit the alt-rock presses (Alternative Press, B-Side, Option), myself and my fellow radio, roadie, and club rats went looking for it.

Were we disappointed with this tale of indie rock vampires?

But not as much as we were with Rockin’ Road Trip (the music is better, here), but we still didn’t dig this rock ‘n vamp romp as much as A Matter of Degrees (the quintessential college-rock film and soundtrack) and Bandwagon. Courtesy of its SOV production values (a genre we jam on at B&S; we have a full, packed week of SOVs coming in September) — and the fact that it’s about vampires — I pair this rock ‘n’ horror piece with writer-director Blair Murphy’s pretty fine Jugular Wine (1994), which, again, because of the alt-press coverage afforded the film due to Henry Rollins appearing in the film (acting, not musically), we grunge-kiddies searched it out.

Jugular Wine — even with its admitted, but charming, weaknesses — is clearly the better film. Depending on one’s Daltonness down at the Road House, opinions vary: Immortal is either an insightful, slow burn — or a too-long lesson in boredom that could have benefited from a tighter, 80-minute home video cut. However, one has to consider the music-basis of the film, so the music segments are greatly extended vs. most rock films of its ilk. And, while the B&S crew is more understanding when it comes to the realms of against-the-budget shot-on-video films, it’s a production style that doesn’t appeal to everyone. So, are music heavy segments awash in hazy-to-muddy video tape-lighting your jam?

There’s more grungy alt-rock flicks to be discovered with our “Exploring: 50 Gen-X Grunge Films of the Alt-Rock ‘90s” featurette.

Dex Dregs (Andrew Taylor, who also crewed and wrote music for the film) is a Kurt Cobainesque guitarist trying to make his bones (pardon the pun) on North Carolina’s college music scene. As with George A. Romero’s Martin (1978), this film’s — in my opinion — raison d’être, Dex runs with that film’s Martin Mathias: a trouble young man who believes himself to be a Bram Stoker-like vampire. Or is it a figment of his mind?

As Dax tries to make his mark on the music scene amid the mortals, he comes to discover music is no longer his addiction or his key to immorality — his quest for fresh human blood is his reason for being. As he makes his music (in what I see as an AIDS or cocaine addiction allegory; again, think Cobain), Dax struggles to keep his lusts in check and hidden from his bandmates and his girlfriend Linda (Edith Snow, aka Meredith Leigh Sause, currently in production on the indie horror, Prom Queen) . . . until he succumbs and feeds off a groupie and one of his guitar students — and a movie star who returns to his home town (Greg Humphreys). Will Dax find a “cure” courtesy of Wiley Wrestling? The mysterious albino (Frank J. Aard, later of the abysmal 2008 remake of 1986’s April Fools Day), who was the lone survivor of a horrific train wreck (the “113 Die” you see in the theatrical one-sheet), also wants his gold pocket (with a W.W inscription) in Dax’s possession, returned.

Upon succumbing to his lust and feeding off Linda, his addiction destroying his love, Dax takes to the streets playing for pocket change. Then a strange woman walks by and tosses an engraved pocket watch into his guitar case — inscribed with the initials “D.D.”

Courtesy of cwustman/eBay. Good luck finding a copy of the Permanent/Spectrum soundtrack. Sounds like another Rocktober Blood hornswoggle, to me.

This is an SOV’er that is impossible to find on VHS (well, it used to be, before http reared its ugly bytes), and you can forget about the streams, free or pay, but the fine folks at Brain Damage Films resurrected this lost rock ‘n’ horror flick to DVD in 2007 — in a directors cut. Now, the VHS original runs at — what I feel — a too long one hour and forty minutes. As of press time, we’ve been unable to determine if the DVD reissue is longer or shorter than the original 1995 VHS issue.

You can find DVD copies at online retailers, such as Amazon and Best Buy. VHS copies are available on eBay/eBay. Brain Damage no longer lists the DVD in their catalog, so you’re at the mercy of used online copies.

Since the Squirrel Nut Zippers hit platinum after the films release, they’re now put to the forefront in the film’s reboot marketing.

And, sorry, Chum. There’s no trailers, clips, or music from the film in the online realms to share. But Googling any of the bands, as well as Mammoth Records, will expose you to the music behind the Chapel Hill and Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina scene that inspired the film.

You say you’re interest in more film shot in Chapel Hill, North Carolina? Well, you can dig into them courtesy of this IMDB filming locations list for the city. And here’s an IMDB list for Raleigh. And, in the mother of all lists, Wikipedia has a list of everything shot in the state. Be sure to swing by Greg Humpheys’s blogspot/social media portal and say “hi,” and let him know we remember him over at B&S About Movies. His new 2021 solo album, Spanish Steps, is out now.

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.

Bandwagon (1997)

The later DVD reissues of this love letter to the college rock era proclaim the film as “This Is Spinal Tap meets The Commitments” on the box copy. However, I feel a more accurate pitch to inspire your viewing is “Kevin Smith’s Clerks meets Singles.”

I’d pair this delightful (and accurate) indie comedy about the trials and tribulations of musicians alongside its college radio chronicle counterpart, A Matter of Degrees (1990), long before double-featuring it with the faux-band tomfoolery of This is Spinal Tap. In fact, Bandwagon plays better as a two-fer with Steve Buscemi’s feature film writing/directing debut Trees Lounge, as both films carry that same looser-with-hopes vibe — only Buscemi’s flick didn’t have a rock band in it (but did give us a great, college-rock title cut theme song by Hayden).

When it come to films encapsulating the Athens, Georgia, to Chapel Hill (and Raleigh-Durham), North Carolina ’80s college rock scene — spreadheaded by that scenes “Nirvana” in R.E.M — no film does it better than this debut feature film writing and directing debut by John Schultz, the original drummer for Raleigh, North Carolina’s the Connells (he left the band prior to their debut recording to pursue film).

If you had a college rock or community/non-commercial radio station (that supported indies and local music) in your area, or if you stayed up late on Sunday nights to watch MTV’s alt-rock programming block 120 Minutes, or perhaps you picked up copies of Alternative Press, Option, or B-Side magazines instead of the faux, non-commercial ramblings of Spin, you come to know the Connells melodic Elvis Costello-cum-the Smiths sounds with their underground hits “Hats Off” and “Seven” from their well-received debut album Darker Days (1985), and “Scotty’s Lament” from their sophomore effort Boyland Heights (1987). Both albums should have taken the Connells to the commercial heights of their contemporaries, R.E.M — but did not.

Instead, the Connells settled into a comfortable, college-rock star status with their albums Fun & Games (1989), which produced the modern rock hit “Something to Say,” and One Simple Word (1990), which produced the Billboard hits “Stone Cold Yesterday” and “Get A Gun.” Their fifth album, Ring (1993), while still not finding any headway on commercial U.S. radio stations (even in the “Rock Alternative” craze flipping hair-metal oriented AOR stations at a dizzying rate), none the less expanded the Connells audience to Europe, where the album and its related singles, “74-75,” and the should-have-been-the-hit-that-broke-them-in-America (on the level of Cracker with “Low”), “Slackjawed,” charted in several Euro-counties. Not even a national television appearance with “Slackjawed” on NBC-TV’s Late Night with Conan O’Brien (it didn’t work for John Doe* on David Letterman’s show, either) could breach the commercial inroads afforded to the drek spewed by the likes of the Crash Test Dummies and the Spin Doctors.

The film’s connection to the Connells, by way of the band’s ex-drummer John Schultz, continues with the band’s lead singer Doug MacMillan starring as the legendary band manager Linus Tate, who takes the film’s scruffier, ersatz-Connells of the film, Circus Monkey, under his wings to college rock stardom.

Courtesy of John Schultz writing what he knows (a lesson that many first time screenwriter-directors fail to realize; keep it intimate) for his first feature film, Bandwagon displays a well-honed grace against its low budget, a skill that Schultz developed while creating feature documentaries for Steven Spielberg’s Hook and Jurassic Park. If you enjoyed Kevin Smith’s grungy, Gen-X debut, Clerks (released two years earlier in 1994; both the film and its soundtrack), then there’s something here in this North Carolina-shot musical chronicle for you to enjoy.

Courtesy of his connections working on those documents, and Bandwagon being well-received at Sundance, Schultz came to direct two major studio projects that you may have come across on cable or plucked off your local video store shelves: the Melissa Joan Hart-starring Drive Me Crazy (1999) and the basketball comedy Like Mike (2002) starring Lil Bow Wow. His most recent features (his 9th and 10th) were the Netflix-backed A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding and The Royal Baby (2018/2019). His sophomore screenwriting credit to Bandwagon was the comedy When Zachary Beaver Came to Town (2003) (from the days when the kid from Jerry Maguire was a “thing” set to be the next Macaulay Culkin).

There’s more films from the alt-rock ’90s to be found with our “Exploring: 50 Gen-X Grunge Films of the Alt-Rock ‘90s” featurette.

In an interview with The Boston Globe (the city was a major college radio hub/market at the time), John Schultz said, “On the shoot, we (as with most of the crew, as himself, it was their first-ever film) didn’t really realize what we were doing right and what we were doing wrong [during their six-weeks shoot in 1993 in Raleigh, North Carolina] and a lot of the problems we found in the editing room.”

Musician Greg Kendall, hired to write the songs for the faux Circus Monkey, met Schultz through their mutual friend, Doug MacMillan. “They were to have good songs,” Kendall told The Boston Globe‘s Jim Sullivan, “but they had to be believable. They couldn’t be too stupid and they couldn’t be too ornate.” Schultz, Kendall explained, supplied the titles to the songs and Kendall wrote and sang them. The songs were recorded at the world famous (well, at least in college rock circles) Fort Apache Studios in Cambridge, Massachusetts (know you Dinosaur, Jr. history). In addition to the film’s eight songs, Kendall also scored the film. “There’s nothing ‘MTV’ about it [the film]. It’s naive, some would say to a fault. I would say it’s a strength,” explained Kendall.

You just gotta love humble musicians and filmmakers who know their strengths and weaknesses, and are truthful in their quest do their best to create their art.

As far as the original tunes go: If you enjoy the Connells, or the lighter, less fuzzy-distorted side of Dinosaur, Jr., and the poppier-sloppy sounds of the Replacements, with a dash of Uncle Tupelo/Wilco, you’ll enjoy the tunes crafted by Kendall. For me, “It Couldn’t Be Ann” is a real stunner (the link takes you to the video single of the tune that features scenes from the film). Sadly, the official soundtrack was an elusive one to track down . . . so, yeah, this was one of those patch the VCR into the cassette deck movies to get the songs for your car, type of films.

The elusive soundtrack — easier to find in today’s online marketplace.

The band Circus Monkey comes together as three slacking Raleigh musicians — Eric (Steve Parlavecchio), a jock bassist; Wynn, a drug-addicted guitarist (the always great Kevin Corrigan; Ray Liotta’s brother in Goodfellas); and the always-babbling drummer, Charlie (Matthew Hennessey) — deal with their own issues of friendship and relationships and career frustrations on the local indie scene. The label signing of the rival “frat-band” Spittle (think Pearl Jam’s “fake grunge” vs. Nirvana’s righteousness) instills a resolve for our ne’er-do-well six-string slingers to get their you-know-whats together and net a record deal . . . if only they could win Rival Records’ upcoming Battle of the Bands talent showcase . . . and not become a Faustian record company victim . . . and end up like the bane of their existence, that is their rivals, Spittle.

The only problem: none of them can write a decent song. So they recruit Tony (a really fine Lee Holmes), a shy, neurotic garage mechanic whose songs — perpetually about a girl named “Ann” — never leave his makeshift studio in the back of said garage. And when Tony is finally coaxed out of the garage and onto the stage — he stands in the corner with his back to the audience . . . if only the elusive Ann (who no one believes is real) would turned up at a show and notice him. . . .

Is the script a bit uneven, punctuated with some directorial missteps and a wee-bit of thespian weakness? Sure. But, again, John Schultz lived the life and he expertly encapsulates the romanticism for his college-home town roots.

As we discussed in our “Drive-In Friday: First Time Directors & Actors Night” featurette**, not every celluloid neophyte is hitting a Quentino Tarantino over the 410 at PNC Park, or infield-homering a Boondock Saints. But make no mistake: John Schultz is no Tommy Wiseau and Bandwagon is no The Room. Unlike Matty Rich, who wowed us with his heartfelt simplicity in his debut Straight Out of Brooklyn, only to scuttle his career Troy Duffy-style, Schultz, gave us an admitted strained, but technically adept film that, like Alex Kendrick before him with his first film, Flywheel, came not from a quest for fame, but to express his soul though a lens instead of behind a drum kit.

And I am glad John Schultz came out from behind that drum kit to create one of my favorite — and not just rock films — but films, period. It was a blast watching this again (how many times does that make, now).

You can enjoy the full film as a free-stream on You Tube.

* We blew out a week’s worth of films starring John Doe of X, so do check out our “John Doe Week” of reviews.

** In a continuation of our Drive-In Friday feature on first time filmmakers, we also discuss the careers of other first-time Tinseltown hopefuls with our “Drive-In Friday: Documentaries About Directors” and “Drive-In Friday: Movies About Movies” featurettes.

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

Rockin’ Road Trip (1985)

Between the years of 1983 and 1997, writer/director William Olsen gave us four films: Getting It On (1983; creepy, sex-starved T&A teens partaking of video technologies; originally known as American Voyeur), Rockin’ Road Trip (1985), After School (1988; a Sam Bottoms-starring, forbidden teacher-student mess that took four screenwriter to get made), and the final film, Southern Belles (1997; that looks like a Cinemax soft-porn romp, and probably is).

We will probably never review — because we never searched them out (then or now) — the remainder of Olsen’s resume, and are only here due to Sam the Bossman inspiring a little celluloid archeology as result of devising another “Rock n’ Roll” theme week. And that we relish scrapping barrel bottoms. And the fact that Leon Rippy co-stars.

A Key Video/20th Century Fox joint backed by Troma?

So, have you ever spoken the phrase, “The soundtrack is better than the movie?” Well, that’s the case, here, as props are to be given to Olsen for at least pulling together an ’80s college rock soundtrack dream — courtesy of Landslide Records, the distributor of college rock stalwarts, dB Records — with R.E.M’s fellow Athens-based bands Guadalcanal Diary (who also stars, here), Love Tractor, Pylon, The Heartfixers (featuring noted blues guitarist Tinsley Ellis; managed by Michael Rothchild, president of Landslide Records), Marianna Pace, and . . . the Cheryl Wilson Band (?) (handled by Michael Rothchild via his Frozen Inca Music-imprint).

Since we have a real band in Guadalcanal Diary doin’ the cameo thing, we need to bring up our “Ten Band Cameos in Movies” featurette.

Hey, forget about the soundtrack! Did you say “Leon Rippy”?

We did.

Yes, this lost VHS’er — also known as Summertime Blues (nixed after Warner Music objected to the use of the old Eddie Cochran tune as a title; yeah, the same tune covered by Blue Cheer and Hendrix; the version butchered by the Cheryl Wilson Band is an original and not a cover) — stars the very same Leon Rippy who starred in seven Roland Emmerich movies: Moon 44 (1990), Eye of the Storm (1991), Universal Soldier (1992), Stargate (1994), The Thirteenth Floor (1999), The Patriot (2000), and Eight Legged Freaks (2002). Not only did Rippy begin his career with Rockin’ Road Trip (his 9th role — and biggest part, to date), he also had support roles in King Kong Lives (1986) and Young Guns II (1990). Why yes, that is the Rip starring as Tom Nuttal in HBO’s Deadwood. Hey, all actors gotta start, somewhere — remember Oscar-nodded John Hawkes starting out in the apoc-slop that is Future-Kill?

Oh, and for some reason: this film has a freaky connection to Stephen King.

Not only was one of Rippy’s earliest character-support roles in Stephen King’s Firestarter (as “Blinded Agent”), (the late) Steve Boles, who stars, here, also got his start in Firestarter (as “Mailman”), while actor Graham Smith, who stars as Ivan the Angry Punk, followed up with a role as “Porter Zinneman” in Silver Bullet, and actor Martin Tucker, here as Lenny, was a featured background actor in Maximum Overdrive. (The rest of the actors in the film are done-and-gone.)

Now, let’s see if we can sort out this confusing plot of rock bands, psycho boyfriends, blind street preachers, we-think-we-murdered-him runaways, mistaken-identity jewel thieves, stolen $5000 cash-stashes, and you have-to-come-home-because-dad-is-sick hijinks. And we say “hijinks,” because, even with the plot points of murder, larceny and terminal illness, this is still, yes, a comedy — bankrolled by Lloyd Kaufman’s Troma shingle.

We have another rock n’ roll tale of (the later) The Runnin’ Kind (1989) variety, with Martin: a lonely n’ horny college era ne’er-do-well who, this time, travels from Boston to (another) a college rock hotspot in (Chapel Hill) North Carolina (yes, and bands are from Athens) all for love of Nicole, the lead singer of his favorite band, Cherry Suicide. In his attempt to meet Nicole, Martin, instead, hooks up with Nicole’s sister, Samantha (with one sister, but pining for the other; been there, done that) and gets wrapped up in their personal drama (been there, done that, too).

If you need more fake rock bands, we discuss them in our “Ten Bands Made Up for Movies” featurette.

And Martin runs afoul of the trope-laden hot Nicole’s Ivan, her trope-laden crazy-ass-frack boyfriend (with bad haircut to match the bad thespin’). Nickie and little sis get the drop on Ivan the Hammy during one of his abusive-psycho rages, gives him a good whack on the noggin’, and steal his ill-gotten stash of five grand. So, now, the sisters need to split town — and recruit Martin to head on down to North Carolina.

But why North Carolina, of all places?

Well, turns out the sisters’ dad is terminally ill, so they’ll just bring their murder-robbery drama (Ivan’s not dead, after all) into their mom and dad’s home. You gotta love the family-love.

Oh, and Martin brings along his blind, street preacher buddy, Wally, because, well, a gang is loose on the streets randomly beating up street beggars in a crazed search for a valuable ring — one that ended up in the panhandling cup of a beggar: Wally’s cup. (Oh, Leon Rippy runs the seedy, Virginia hotel that Cherry Suicide and friends checks-in; the new wave caterwauls of the Cheryl Wilson Band doubles as Cherry Suicide.)

You got that?

Yeah, as you can see, this film — sans a somewhat cool soundtrack (the Cheryl Wilson stuff is utterly awful; couldn’t you get Josie Cotton from Valley Girl, at least) that was never officially released — is a hot mess (with plenty of comedic musical montage fillers to pad that run time, as if the rock band scenes weren’t enough). Yeah, this ain’t no Cotton Candy. Where’s the deliciously dickish Torbin Bequette — in place of Ivan the Crappy Actor — when we need him?

Dude, this movie needs some Torbin Bequette and Rapid Fire! And some George Smalley and Cotton Candy in place of Cheryl the Terrible.

What’s not a (Troma) mess is the cinematography and sound; this is a well-shot film, courtesy of Austin McKinney — winding down his long career begun in the early ’50s. In addition to working on a few films with Jack Hill (Fear Chamber, House of Evil, Pit Stop, Isle of the Snake People, Alien Terror, Sorceress), McKinney designed the visual effects in Escape from New York and The Terminator, and worked in the sound department on A Nightmare on Elm Street and Hellraiser III. You’ve also seen his camerawork in work in Galaxy of Terror, Jaws 3-D, and (radio station romp) Redneck Miller. McKinney also shot Olsen’s Getting It On and After School (so maybe they’ll be worth digging up, after all).

You can pick up copies of Rockin’ Road Trip on DVD by VCI, which features a stills gallery from William Olsen’s personal collection (with his voice over), as well as a 20-minute interview vignette with Olsen, who tells us the film was planned as a larger scale project — with Ellen Barkin as the rocker chick and Peter Riegert as the love-struck artist. Considering Barkin was in Eddie and the Cruisers and Riegert was in Animal House (this film’s dual, raison d’être ______ “meets” ______ pitch) that would have been something to see. But financing issues stymied their castings . . . and we ended up with a bunch of never-heard-of-or-seen-again North Carolina theatre actors.

So, with $20,000 bucks in his pocket, Olsen gave us this rock ‘n’ not-roll excuse for a T&A sex comedy — one that so wants to be Porky’s, but can’t make the grades to get into Faber. But hey, Rockin’ Road Trip ended up as a USA’s Up All Night weekend-overnight programmer, and that’s not bad return on the investment of two Salmon P. Chase greenbacks.

Yeah, thanks to The USA Network, it was something to do on a dateless Saturday Night — once you had your fill of Riki Rachtman frackin’ up MTV’s Headbangers Ball (dick). But as with the abysmal Hail Ceasar and Splitz, both which we reviewed this week, Rockin’ Road Trip is another not-rockin’ flick you watched once (well, twice, if you have to write a review for it) and you never go back home again. But, hey, you can stream for a retro $2.00 rental on Amazon Prime — and get the DVDs (with crappy art work) at Walmart (for the VHS sadist in you). (Oddly enough, back when my local public library carried VHS tapes, a copy Rockin’ Road Trip — probably a patron donation — was on the shelf.)

You say you need more ’80s college rock of the Georgia peach variety? Then check out Love Tractor — and many others — in the documentary (and released soundtrack) Athens, Ga. Inside/Out (1987; there’s bits n’ pieces of it on You Tube). If you need another errant college-cum-new wave band showing up in a film (with a band that had an actual commercial radio hit), check out the Plimsouls doing “A Million Miles Away” in Valley Girl. Hey, almost forgot! If you want to see another (superior) North Carolina band rockin’ it up in a movie, check out Fetchin’ Bones with “Love Crushing in (the radio romp) A Matter of Degrees. (Yeah, if only we had John Doe of X and Hope Nichols of Fetchin’ Bones in the roles originally meant for Ellen Barkin and Peter Riegert . . . oh, well.)

If you need more Teen Sex Comedies — and don’t we all — be sure check out our “Drive-In Friday: Teen Sex Comedies” featurette.

When college rock began . . . the sweet sounds of youth.
Real life sucks.

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

Hail Caesar (1994)

Did you know Anthony Michael Hall is also an accomplished musician?

It’s true.

His “band,” Hall of Mirrors, issued a lone album through Hall’s own vanity impress, RAM Recordings. Welcome to the Hall of Mirrors, a 1999 studio project, features thirteen tracks that Hall wrote, sang, and produced — and played all the guitars, bass, and drums. Guest assisting him in the studio was former Guns N’ Roses guitarist Gilby Clarke (who put out a pretty cool glam-pop album with Candy, Whatever Happened to Fun; sound like sloppy-polished the Replacements, then there’s the harder-edged Kills For Thrills) and Prince’s former keyboardist, Tommy Barbarell.

What’s it sound like? Well, if “fuzzy funk-jazz” is a thing, that’s sums it up.

In an online podcast with (defunct) “Hollywood Spotlight” at Real Hollywood, at the time of the time of the CD’s release, Hall stated he was “a fan of everything from Rage Against the Machine, to Green Day, to Puffy Daddy, and has ‘diverse tastes,’ with a love of classic rock, R&B, and funk from the ‘70s.” Hall’s work on the album was long-gestating, since the early ’90s, as four of the songs from the album appeared in Hall’s directorial effort, Hail Caesar, which doubled as the music for the film’s Julius Caesar MacGruder’s band, Hail Caesar.

The plot — devised by family television showrunner and writer Bob Mittenthal (Double Dare, Rugrats, Robotboy, and It’s Pony) — Hail Caesar tells the story of the trials and tribulations of Julius MacGruder trying to score a recording contract (from Robert Downey, Jr.’s record executive). To make ends meet, Julius works in a . . . pencil eraser factory . . . managed by . . . Frank “The Joker” Gorshin. While there, Julius meets Buffer Bidwell (Bobbie Phillips of the abysmal Showgirls from 1995 and the 1998 remake of Carnival of Souls), the boss’s daughter . . . and romance blooms . . . to the chagrin of the factory’s owner, Mr. Bidwell (Nicholas Prior of The Gumball Rally fame). Wanting rid of Julius from his daughter’s life, Bidwell makes a bet with the ne’er-do-well rocker that he knows the slick-slacker will never honor: make $100,000 in six months; if he does, he can marry Buffer, if not, he’s banished.

Since Hall was firmly established at this point and made a lot a friends in the business, he was able to call in favors and secure the services of his past co-stars in Robert Downey, Jr. (the 1988 sports comedy Johnny Be Good) and Judd Nelson (1985’s The Breakfast Club), and, in a very early, pre-stardom role as a postman, Samuel L. Jackson. (The caveat: each are not around for long.)

In proof that everyone in Hollywood has to start somewhere: The cinematographer here is Adam Kane, who would go on to lens The Boondock Saints and TV’s Grey’s Anatomy. The editor, Jack Turner, also worked on A Nightmare on Elm Street 4, but his work dates back to the blaxploitation classic, Petey Wheatstraw. And, yes, the producer here, Steven Paul, is the same Steven Paul who made bank with the Ghost Rider, Baby Genius, and Stallone’s The Expendables franchises.

If you need more fake rock bands, we cover ’em in our “Ten Bands Made Up for Movies” featurette.

So, enough with the film trivia. What do I think about the film?

Well, I didn’t think I’d ever find another rock ‘n’ roll flick more deserving of the blue screen of death as Corey Feldman’s Rock ‘n’ Roll High School Forever (1994) — yes, there’s a sequel to Rock ‘n’ Roll High School (!) — and I did just that. Yeah, Hail Caesar is another one of those coveted rock ‘n roll obscurities that was poorly distributed; so, in lieu of seeing it on cable (it was made exclusively for Showtime) or as a Blockbuster rental, my first exposure was picking up a cutout bin copy. So much much for that $2.00; I could have had a McNuggets sixer and a small Dr. Pepper. Hey, I love indie-quirky, as Ed and His Dead Mother and Trees Lounge are two of my favorite, oddball VHSers, but not this time. Sorry.

While I really dig Hall’s quirky compositional style, which has an off-kiltered Crispin Glover vibe (see Glover’s “Dance Etiquette” by his studio project The Uncalled Four, which appeared in the 1994 comedy Twister), for a “rock ‘n’ roll movie,” the music really isn’t all that “rock,” and there’s just not enough of it (to hold my rock ‘n’ radio interests). In fact, even with all of the familiar, established actors in the cast (who’ve done far better work), the proceedings are all snooze-enducing boring and a wee-bit too hammy (especially by Downey; Gorshin is just sad as can be), with a lot of flat-as-a-worn out-eraser humor. Maybe if this was a Pauly Shore joint . . . or Adam Sandler did the ol’ immature adult routine with that annoying baby-talk voice he does . . . maybe if it was done as an animated feature . . . or cast with tween actors for Bob Mittenthal’s old Nickelodeon home base. . . .

Let’s put it this way: This is the second time I’ve watched Hail Ceasar since finding that VHS cutout all those years ago. And I dozed off on it back then (and it took a month to finish it) . . . and I fast-forwarded though it today, so as to refresh my memory to pull together this review. And if not for this being another “Rock ‘n’ Roll Week,” you wouldn’t be reading this final sentence. . . .

Courtesy of You Tuber Jok3r Girl, you can listen to four of Hall’s songs that appear in the film: “What U Feel,” “Dance for Me,” “Crazy World,” and “Blue Jam.” Another song in the film, that’s not on the later CD, is “Love Is.” You can watch Hail Caesar as a free-with-ads stream on Tubi.

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.

No Code of Conduct and A Letter from Death Row (1998)

Did you know that actor Charlie Sheen and Poison’s lead vocalist Bret Michaels (The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years) are best buds? So much so that they formed their own production company, Sheen Michaels Entertainment. Another principal in the company is writer-director Nick Cassavetes (remembering that Sheen and Cassavetes co-starred in The Wraith).

The company’s debut release was the chick-flicky drama Unhook the Stars (1996), followed by the Sean Penn-starrer She’s So Lovely (1997), both written and directed by Cassavetes. Charlie Sheen starred in the shingle’s third production, Under Pressure, aka Bad Day on the Block (1997), a tale about a psychotic fireman’s (Sheen) obsession with a family he saved from a fire (remembering 1992’s Unlawful Entry with Ray Liotta’s crazy cop). The company’s best known and most successful film (box office, not critically) was the action buddy-comedy Money Talks (1997), in which Chris Tucker co-starred with Sheen.

Prior to shutting down the shingle in 1999 (for a total of 9 films and 2 documentaries), the studio also produced the Charlie Sheen-narrated Discovery Mars (1997), the Zalman King-directed (Galaxy of Terror) surfing-drama In God’s Hands (1998, which also features Michaels in a support role), Free Money (1998), starring Marlon Brando, Donald Sutherland, and Sheen, and Five Aces (1999), also starring Sheen.

Hey, what about Bret Michaels?

Well, that’s why we’re here, isn’t it? It is “Rock ‘n’ Roll Week,” after all.

Michaels wrote, directed, starred, and scored two crime-driven action-dramas for the company: No Code of Conduct, his debut, and A Letter from Death Row; the films are said to be sequels, but are, in fact, two distinct films unto themselves.

Yes. The man who gave you the hits “Unskinny Bop,” “I Want Action,” and rakes in the royalty greens with the constantly-spinning classic rock and classic hits radio staples “Nothing but a Good Time” and “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” carved out a career behind the camera.

No Code of Conduct

As with their mutual work in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street, Charlie Sheen and his father, Martin Sheen, co-star in No Code of Conduct, as a strained father and son: this time they’re (troubled) vice detectives, with Martin’s Bill Peterson as the leader of the unit. When Charlie’s Jake Peterson’s partner dies on-the-job, the Petersons put their differences aside to find the killer. The investigation comes to uncover a Mexican drug smuggling ring that connects in Pheonix, Arizona. The action, as we say, ensues, with all of the expected car chases and crashes, rains of bullets, and exploding buildings . . . only on a less, cost-effective budget than the Sly Stallone films (1986’s Cobra, in particular), and Lethal Weapon, as well as your favorite John Woo squib-fest, it desires to be.

The dirty copy adventures also stars the always-welcomed Mark Dacascos (Double Dragon, The Base) and Estevez acting-family warhorse, little brother and Uncle Joe Estevez (300-credits strong, with a dozen films currently in production) and, of course, look for Bret Michaels in a supporting role as Frank “Shane” Fields. Yeah, there’s Joe Lando (of TV’s Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman). And hey! Is that the late Paul Gleason, playing yet another, arrogantly inept authority figure (this time, he’s DEA), as he did in Die Hard? Oh, and don’t forget his work as the put-upon school counselor in The Breakfast Club.

Hey, this Bret Michaels industry-calling was never intended to be more than a B-Movie (at a reported cost of $12,000,000) and Michaels is new to the game; so while the proceedings are second rate, it’s still not an Al Adamson-incompetent or Godfrey Ho-chopshop joint (know your B-Movie Kings), and pans out to be a decent little direct-to-video action romp. That’s not to say it is still not disheartening to see Charlie Sheen — who made his bones in Oliver Stone’s Platoon and wowed us in Wall Street — stuck in a direct-to-video sorta-kinda clunker, but he did give us the really fine No Man’s Land (1987). However, if not for this being a Bret Michaels joint — regardless of the likeable Mark Dacascos on board — we probably wouldn’t be writing this review (for “Rock ‘n’ Roll Week”).

A Letter from Death Row

Bret Michaels ups his game in his second joint, aka “creation,” starring in the lead role of Michael Raine — with Martin Sheen as his father (and, like his dad, Charlie also appears in a blink-and-he’s-gone cameo) — a Death Row convict (shot on location in Tennessee State Prison and casting real prisoners in roles).

As result of Michaels starring, this is the one most rock ‘n’ roll flick lovers have seen, first, only to then discover Michaels made his debut with No Code of Conduct. And, sadly, everyone drops the ol’ “Citizen Kane of Bad Movies,” the same snotty critical descriptor bestowed to Tommy Wiseau’s The Room, for A Letter from Death Row.

So, is it as bad (or so bad it’s good) as a Wiseau joint? Is it better than — or worse than — No Code of Conduct? Well, you know how it goes down at the ol’ Road House, Dr. Dalton: opinions vary.

Ne’er-do-well, struggling songwriter and Nashville native Michael Raine moved to Philadelphia for a fresh start . . . and ends up convicted of murdering his exotic dancer girlfriend (for all glam rockers must date strippers) by pillow-smothering and lands himself on death row. He claims he’s innocent and someone broke into his home and did it . . . while he was practicing his sweet karate moves (look out, Napoleon!). Conveniently, thanks to Raine’s affinity for “sex games,” the cops have the crime on video tape. Of course, Raine’s dopey defense attorney (famed, but now, sadly late due to COVID, Nashville radio talk show host Phil Valentine, who may be great behind the mic but is awful in front of a camera) has his ulterior motives.

When we get to prison, everything goes film noir and Hitchcock-twisty, with Jessica Foster, the Chief of Staff — and mistress (and spy) — of the Governor of Tennessee writing a book on Raine’s high profile case . . . which leads to him being blackmailed by the also “wrongly convicted” jailhouse preacher Lucifer Jones (he raped an altar boy), who wants Foster to overturn his conviction. And it’s all very meta, as, while awaiting his execution, Raine’s penning a screenplay . . . of the very movie you’re watching . . . you got that?

And the “ensues” kick in . . . for if you’ve watched any episodes of Law & Order: TOS or SVU, you know that the Governor likes his strippers . . . and Raine’s just a pasty . . . and the dopey defense attorney, the warden and his brutal, second-in-command, natch, henchman are red herring flippin’ n’ floppin’ on the seedy n’ shady noir docks.

So, which is the better . . . or worse film?

No Code of Conduct is clearly — but not by much — the better film (thanks to Sheens sticking around longer), as I feel, for his second film, Bret Michaels bit off a bit too much from the creative Slim Jim.

If Michaels wanted to take a crack as a lead actor, he should have stuck to the thespin’ and left the directing to someone else. Sure, Michaels is Tiger Blood-trying, but he’s not a dual-auteur of the Clint Eastwood variety, here. The main weakness — but one that critics fail to understand — is that Michaels is not only inspired by classic ’40s film noir, he made a valiant attempt at recreating those films, not only in story, but in image — but no one in the contemporary home video marketplace wants to see a trope-laden retro-flick with flashbacks in cliched black & white, oddball camera angles, or tales broken down into chapters with title cards to set the scenes.

I think the critics are right on this one: This wants to be a Quentin Tarantino joint, but sunk in L.A.’s Silver Lake Reservoir. If Tommy Wiseau made a prison flick, you know it wouldn’t be inside the walls of Shawshank, right? So who liked it? Well, when ne’er-do-well security guard Jimmy Hughes of CBS-TV’s Yes, Dear met Bret Michaels (“Greg’s Big Day”), he named dropped A Letter from Death Row as one of his favorite films.

So, yeah, this one is for Poison and ’80s hair metal fans, only. Prison flick aficionados will give A Letter from Death Row a hard pass. But, in scanning the “Best of” and “Worst of” prison flicks lists of the digital divide, A Letter from Death Row shows up on neither. So that’s saying something.

After that, Bret’s never written, directed, or acted in another film. He has, however, carved out a nice career as a go-to reality television cast member, most recently appearing as a contestant on a 2020 installment of The Masked Singer and as a judge on Nashville Star (2003). And those ASCAP royalty checks keep rolling in, with Poison tunes appearing in all manner of TV series and films (60 credits and counting), so even thought Bret’s out of the movie business, he’s still having one hell of a good time. And good enough of a time, that he’s able to make sport of himself, as, well, himself, with appearances in Sharknado 5: Global Warming (2017). He still occasionally appears (as characters, not himself) in front of the camera in TV dramas, such as CBS-TV’s Burke’s Law (1994) and Martial Law (1999). And he’s actually pretty good at it (or gotten better at it, depending on your Road Housin’ opinions), and I’d like to see him guesting on more network and cable series.

You can find online streams of both films in the online marketplace on a variety of pay platforms, but not free-with-ads streams or freebie uploads, sorry. The subsequent DVDs of A Letter from Death Row also features the 60-minute documentary High Tension, Low Budget (The Making of A Letter from Death Row). You can also listen to the full solo album/film soundtrack to A Letter from Death Row (featuring members of Poison) on You Tube. You can also stream episodes of Bret Michaels’s reality series Rock of Love and its sequel, Life as We Know It, on Tubi.

From concert files: Okay. So Poison’s debut album wasn’t out and they weren’t even on the radio, yet. And here they are, opening for Alice Cooper (no, not KISS, Mike, that was Krokus, damn it). And posters, based on the album cover, below, are plastered all over the venue. So, yeah . . . we thought they were (hot) chicks (Mike, dude, did we? Yikes!) and that Poison was a band, like, you know, Vixen. And their opening tune, the title cut of the album, was pretty decent (heavy live, but poppy-overproduced on record). So, we were going to buy the album the next day . . . and discovered how wrong we were!

So that’s my Poison story.

And Poison are back on the road — with all of its original members! — as the opening act for Mötley Crüe and Def Leppard with Joan Jett for the long, COVID-delayed The Stadium Tour, currently rolling in 2021. You can learn more at the official Poison site.

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

Possums (1998)

Okay, so this radio station flick doesn’t deal in rock ‘n’ roll, but in sports.

But we can cheat this flick into our latest “Rock ‘n’ Roll Week” of reviews courtesy of its star: Texas-born country singer, songwriter, and actor Mac Davis. Best known for his huge, ’70s AM radio solo hits “Baby, Don’t Get Hooked on Me,” “One Hell of a Woman,” and “Burnin’ Thing,” he made his mark in the business by writing Elvis Presley’s late ’60s hits “In the Ghetto” and “A Little Less Conversation.”

As an actor, Davis made his feature film debut — after hosting his own NBC-TV music-comedy variety show The Mac Davis Show from 1974 to 1976 — with one of the better dramas about the dark side of football, North Dallas Forty (1979), holding his own alongside Nick Nolte.

For his ninth film, five of which were TV movies across the “Big Three” networks, Davis followed his work in the unfortunate box office bomb The Sting II (1983) — which, in conjunction with the failure of his second starring role as a divorced private detective in Cheaper To Keep Her (1981), ended his theatrical career — with the modestly budgeted ($1.4 million) sports comedy, Possums.

Sadly, while this lone writing/directing debut by producer and production coordinator J. Max Burnett (family-oriented series for Nickelodeon and The WB) was hailed as a “sports classic” in the tradition of the (superior) sports dramas Rudy and Hoosiers, and well received at the 1998 Seattle and Heartland International Film Festivals, Possums failed to find widespread theatrical distribution outside of the big “football states” of Oklahoma and Texas — where the “Friday Night Lights” rule.

So, Possums was unceremoniously dumped into the home video marketplace and easily found at your local Blockbuster Video.

Will Clark (Davis), an ex-semi-pro player, runs a small town hardware store in Nowata, Oklahoma (a real town, northeast of Tusla, where the film was shot on location), and sidelines at the town’s radio station as “the voice of the Nowata High Possums” — a team that hasn’t won a game in 25 years and hasn’t scored a touchdown in 13 years. And with the giant, Walmart-like retailer Maxi Mart wanting to move into Nowata, which will provide a much-needed boost to the dying, local economy, town mayor Charlie Lawton (B&S favorite Andrew Prine!!) decides to cancel the school’s football program to make way for progress — with Maxi Mart using the football field for their location.

Then, as the next autumn arrives, and the heavy equipment — instead of the local football team — readies to roll onto the field, Will jumps into action.

Distraught at seeing his small town life disappearing, as well as loosing his hardware store and his radio gig, he — to the dismay of his wife (Cynthia Skies; a regular on NBC-TV’s St. Elsewhere and CBS-TV’s JAG; later a producer on Bladerunner 2049) dipping into the family’s dwindling finances — buys airtime on the radio station and begins commentating imaginary football games — games in which the Possums embark on a miracle winning streak and head to the state finals to take on the longstanding champion rivals of Pratville High School.

Then the real Pratville team (led by real life Dallas Cowboys coach Barry Switzer, holding his thespian own) lays down a challenge to play a real game. Now, with the town’s new sense of hope and support, Will brings the Possums back onto the field. Can Will and his son (Jay Underwood, the original The Human Torch in Roger Corman’s 1994 The Fantastic Four) train the rag-tag Possums to believe in themselves and repeat the success of Will’s faux-radio broadcasts?

There’s more films set inside radio stations to be enjoyed with our “Exploring: Radio Stations on Film” featurette.

Is it all an implausible cliche? Is it all just another rag-tag misfits on an underdog adventure flick that we’ve seen before, back to Disney’s Might Ducks hockey franchise and into the later, Keanu Reeves one-two sports punch with The Replacements (2000; itself about football) and Hardball (2001; an inner-city Little League team)?

Sure it is.

Look, Possums is not the greatest sports drama ever made — and certainly doesn’t hold up to its promotional copy claims evoking Rudy and Hoosiers — but it’s not the worst, either. The small town characters (one of which is played by the great Dennis Burkley of Mask fame) are fun, and there’s no foul language or violence.

The joy of watching Possums is that isn’t about radio broadcasting — or football, for that matter. It’s a film about one’s love of their home town, the unity of community, and believing in the impossible. And in days like these, surrounded by the hashtagging warriors of the Internet divide, we need to believe in the impossible. And in ourselves. And that’s Possums.

Possums was available as a VOD on the Amazon and Vudu platforms, and as a free with-ads-stream on Tubi, but as result of recent licensing issues, it’s not currently available for online streaming. But the VHS and DVDs abound in the online marketplace and you can keep on eye out for it on the digital platform of the current rights holders at Multicom.tv.

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

Exploring: Neil Merryweather on Film

Neil Merryweather, left, James Newton Howard, right, with the Space Rangers/Neil Merryweather Facebook.

Canadian rock singer, bass player and songwriter Neil Merryweather, born on December 27, 1945, recorded and performed with musicians including Steve Miller, Dave Mason, Lita Ford, Billy Joel, and Rick James.

He passed away on March 29, 2021, in Las Vegas, Nevada, after a short battle with cancer.


Neil Merryweather, influenced by David Bowie with his Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars project, achieved his low-selling, yet critically acclaimed creative peak of seventies excess with two heavy-psych space-rock albums from his Space Rangers project, released in 1974 and 1975.

Devotees of early-seventies glam-rock and proto-metal obscurities may note the similarities in artwork and sound on the Space Rangers to that of the later, John Entwistle-fronted rock opera of the Flash Fearless vs. the Zorg Women (October 1975) project featuring Detroiter Alice Cooper; the album itself inspired by Bowie’s Ziggy persona.

A Canadian singer and bassist, Neil Merryweather got his professional start with the Just Us, which released 1965’s “I Don’t Love You b/w I Can Tell” on Quality Records (the label had a major Canadian and U.S. chart hit with “Shakin’ All Over” from the Guess Who). Merryweather eventually joined Rick James (later known for his 1981 disco-funk smash, “Superfreak”) in the Mynah Birds (which featured Neil Young and Bruce Palmer, who had already left for Buffalo Springfield) and recorded the August 1967 single, “It’s My Time,” at Detroit’s Motown Studios. Upon the departure of Rick James, Merryweather kept the Mynah Birds active with fellow Canadian Bruce Cockburn (later known to U.S. radio and video audiences for the singles “Wondering Where the Lions Are” from 1980 and 1984’s “If I Had a Rocket Launcher”; Neil and Cockburn also played together in Flying Circus).

Neil’s bandmate in Mama Lion — and its harder-edge version, known as Heavy Cruiser, sans Lynn Carey — keyboardist James Newton Howard, became a go-to Hollywood soundtrack producer. You’re heard his work since the early ’80s — most notably with Wyatt Earp, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, I Am Legend, and Red Sparrow.

Merryweather then established Mama Lion with lead vocalist Lynn Carey and signed with Ripp’s Family Productions (also the home to Billy Joel). After issuing two Janis Joplin-inspired, psychedelic-blues n’ soul efforts with Preserve Wildlife and Give It Everything I’ve Got (both 1972), Mama Lion — sans Carey — became the harder, blues-rocking Heavy Cruiser. Their critically acclaimed, two album stint with Heavy Cruiser and Lucky Dog (1972) attracted the attention of a more industry-reputable managerial suitor, Shep Gordon (he also attempted to sign Iggy Pop; he lost to Danny Sugerman). Gordon wanted to sign and book Heavy Cruiser as Alice Cooper’s opening act. Sadly, Artie Ripp and Shep Gordon didn’t get along, and the Gordon-Cooper deal soured. Along the way, Merryweather was offered — and turned down — the bassist spot in Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

After assisting Billy Joel in the studio on an early demo of “Piano Man,” which led to Joel signing with Columbia Records, Merryweather devised the glam-inspired, proto-metal Space Rangers project around the then high-tech Chamberlin keyboard, also electronically augmenting the band with a then-groundbreaking use of Octivators and Echoplexes. Initially recording with Capitol, Merryweather issued Space Rangers (1974), then Kryptonite (1975), on Mercury.

Billy Joel, with Neil Merryweather and Heavy Cruiser (Rhys Clark and Alan Hurtz) jamming on “Heart of Gold.”

After losing Iggy Pop and Merryweather, Gordon signed Detroit guitarist Dick Wagner, formerly of the Frost, with his new endeavor, Ursa Major, which featured Billy Joel in its embryonic stages.

Ursa Major became Cooper’s opening act and Wagner wrote “Only Women Bleed.”

Tim McGovern, the drummer in Mama Lion and the Space Rangers, would find success as a guitarist. Starting with the L.A new-wave band the Pop, and then with the Motels, McGovern found MTV success with “Belly of the Whale,” as the frontman for the Burning Sensations. They placed their cover of Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers’ “Pablo Picasso” on the punk-influenced soundtrack for 1984’s Repo Man.

Merryweather, sensing the changing times, adopted a pop-rock, new-wave sound with Eyes, a Holland-based band featuring ex-members of the Nina Hagen Band* and Herman Brood’s Wild Romance*, which released Radical Genes on RCA Records. However, Merryweather returned to his heavy-metal roots — inventively streamlining and glamming the “old sound” for a wider, commercial appeal — as the manager, bassist, and chief songwriter for the solo career of ex-Runaway Lita Ford on her progenitive hair-metal debut, Out for Blood.

Leaving the industry after the Ford project, but not leaving his creative side behind, Merryweather forged a career as an award-winning painter, sculpture, and photographer and worked in the creative department for the City of Los Angeles Department of Public Works. As the calendar flipped to the 21st century, Merryweather returned to the music business, composing music for teen-oriented television shows and, with ex-Space Rangers Mike Willis and Jamie Herndon, made plans to enter the studio for a new, third Space Rangers album. His other music projects — formed with ex-Space Ranger Jamie Herndon and ex-Lita Ford drummer Dusty Watson were known as Hundred Watt Head and The La La Land Blues Band.

His last project, prior to his passing, was a third album with Janne Stark, formerly the guitarist with Swedish New Wave of British Heavy Metal upstarts Overdrive, which released the classic hard rock albums Metal Attack (1983) and Swords And Axes (1984). You can learn more about the Merryweather Stark band — and their albums Carved in Rock (2018) and Rock Solid (2020) — at their official Facebook page. You may leave condolences at Neil Merryweather’s personal Facebook page, which will continued to be managed by his survivors.

Neill completing one of his many artworks/courtesy of Neil Merryweather Facebook.

And, with that, let’s roll the films — and TV series — of Neil Merryweather!


The Seven Minutes (1971)

Leave it to Russ Meyer — of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls fame — to be the only filmmaker to realize the soundtrack potential of the musical scope that is Neil Merryweather. And the potential behind the well-researched, sexually-charged novels of screenwriter Irving Wallace (his early ’60s books, published by Simon & Schuster — The Chapman Report, The Prize, The Man, and 1976’s The R Document — were all adapted, as was The Seven Minutes, by others).

While Russ Meyer’s name immediately says “sex,” the film carries a deeper meaning on the effects of pornography and its relationship to issues regarding freedom of speech: it’s also a meta-movie: about a book, The Seven Minutes, purported as the “most obscene piece of pornography ever written.” A district attorney on the political fast track for a senatorial seat uses the book’s erotic infamy to indict a college student for a brutal rape and murder, as well as the book store owner who sold the book to the student.

Typical of a Meyer film, while it lacks his usual “tits and ass” (demanded by the studio), the casting is B&S About Movies-crazed: In addition to Meyer’s wife and 20th Century Fox Studios’ contract player Edy Williams, the cast features Yvonne De Carlo, John Carradine (the last decent film he was in), the always-welcomed Charles Napier, a self-playing Wolfman Jack, and in another early role, Tom Selleck (Daughters of Satan).

As for Neil Merrryweather: “Midnight Tricks,” from his pre-Mama Lion joint album with Lynn Carey — Vacuum Cleaner (1971) by the concern Merryweather & Carey — appears in the film. (Neil’s works with Heavy Cruiser and Mama Lion were distributed by the Paramount Studios-imprint, Family Productions.)

The duo’s relationship with Meyer goes back to the smut-auteur recruiting Lynn Carey for the Stu Phillips-produced soundtrack to Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (Battlestar Galactica ’78 is one of his many); Lynn sings (“Find It” and “Once I Had You”) for that film’s character in the faux band, The Carrie Nations, along with Barbara “Sandi” Robison. While Lynn’s voice appears in the film, for legal reasons, she does not appear on the subsequent, original soundtrack album.

As a child actress, Lynn appeared in the ’60s series The Man from U.N.C.L.E and Lassie; in the early ’80s, she had a stint on the U.S. daytime drama, Days of Our Lives. She made her lone film appearances in Lord Love a Duck (1966; with Roddy McDowall) and How Sweet It Is! (1968; with James Gardner). Lynn’s attempt at moving into ’80s AOR (think ’80s glam-bent Heart) led to her songs appearing in I Married a Centerfold (1984), Challenge of a Lifetime (1985), Radioactive Dreams (1985) (“All Talk” appears in the film, but on the soundtrack), Hollywood Harry (1985), and Combat High (1986).

Lita Ford: Out for Blood (1983)

By the mid-70s, Neil resided in the Netherlands, where, through Chrysalis Records in London, he set up an imprint, Clear, in cooperation with the Dutch company, Dureco. While developing new acts out of Chrysalis’ studios in Miami and Los Angeles, he released his 12th album, his three-years later follow up to Kryponite (1975) by the Space Rangers, with the solo album, Differences (1978). He then formed the more timely, new-wave outfit Eyes, which released their lone album, Radical Genes.

Then, with new wave and punk on the downward stroke and glam metal on the rise: a new musical adventure called forth. . . .

You know the story: Lita Ford was a member of the Runaways (duBeat-e-o). Joan Jett was fed up with Cherrie Currie (The Rosebud Beach Hotel) as the frontwoman. Currie was tired of being pushed on back burner. Joan wanted to take the band in a punk vein (which she did: with members of the Clash and the Sex Pistols, which morphed into her solo debut, Bad Reputation). Lita wanted to take the band in a metal direction, which Joan hated.

So, Neil, as he did with Lynn Carey, first with the Vacuum Cleaner duo project, and their two albums with Mama Lion, found a new muse for his next musical direction: a creative detour that returned to his ’70s hard-rock roots first explored in the bands Heavy Cruiser and the Space Rangers.

As the mastermind behind a new, full-metal Lita, Neil served as her manager and producer (Billy Joel’s ex-Svengali, Artie Ripp, co-produced). In addition to playing bass — his career instrument of choice — Neil wrote four of the albums nine cuts: the album’s title cut song (posted above), “Ready, Willing and Able,” “Die for Me Only (Black Widow),” and “On the Run.” If you know Neil’s artistic side: he designed all of his own albums covers, costumes, and stage shows throughout his career: Out for Blood for blood was no exception: he constructed the chain-web, the cover, and the band’s outfits; he also designed the MTV video single.

Sadly, his partnership with Lita Ford was short-lived. The experience was such that Neil retired from the business to work as a graphic artist — his second biggest love — for government agencies in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. He went on to win numerous awards for his paintings and multi-media pieces.

Ash vs. Evil Dead (2016)

What can we say about this Equinox (1970) inspired franchise from Sam Raimi that hasn’t already been said? Well, we finally worked up the courage to say something about the film that started it all, Evil Dead (1981) — at least Sam “the Bossman” Pacino did — of the highly-influential “Midnight Movie” splatter fest.

As for the series, itself: we touched base with the Bruce Campbell-starring series as part of our “Lee Majors Week” tribute blowout — as Lee appeared as Brock Williams, Ash’s pop, in the second and third seasons of Starz’s Ash vs. Evil Dead.

As for the Neil Merryweather connection: “Star Rider,” from the Space Rangers’ 1975 second and final album, Kyrponite, appears in “Home”; the first episode of the series’ second season, it served as the introduction to Lee’s character.


So, wraps up our exploration of Neil’s all-too-brief connection to film.

This feature’s intro-obituary originally appeared in the Medium pages of R.D. Francis: “Neil Merryweather: Rock’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Space Ranger, Dies.” Portions also appeared in the article “Other Musical Phantoms: Neil Merryweather and Jim Gustafson. Who? (Then You Don’t Know William Kyle Eidson II or Lori Lieberman, Either).”

You can discover and listen to Neil’s catalog on his official You Tube page. There are also numerous uploads of his albums by his many, worldwide fans.


We previously explored the soundtrack work of the late Eddie Van Halen — as well as his lone acting gig — with our “Exploring: Eddie Van Halen” on Film” feature.
To learn more about another obscure, musical “phantom” of the ’70s, be sure to visit with the article: “Arthur Pendragon: Jim Morrison’s Doppelganger.”

* We reviewed Nina Hagen and Herman Brood’s dual-acting roles in the film Cha-Cha (1979).

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies and publish music reviews and short stories on Medium.

Splitz (1982)

We wish this movie was about sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll . . . but two out of three ain’t bad.”
— Wishing thinking from the Film Ventures International marketing department, because they don’t have the other “two,” either


My eyes widened with glee. My irises twinkled. I discovered VHS gold; for there sat two dusty copies of the elusive rock ‘n’ roll and radio flicks I long pined for my collection: Splitz and Zoo Radio. It’s amazing, in those youthful, analog years, how elated my crappy life could become by the mere spending of $4.00.

Then I injected the tapes into my VCR. And I wish I’d hit up the McDonald’s in the strip mall lot and got a Big Mac.

Instead of those VHS rock ditties that lent themselves to multiple viewings, such as The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Cannon’s whacked rock fable, The Apple, and Brian De Palma’s Phantom of the Paradise, I ended up with another musical-snoozorama, à la Playing for Keeps, Scenes from the Goldmine, Suffering Bastards, and It’s a Complex World. And just as Zoo Radio did not prove to be another FM, Splitz would not prove to be another Times Square. Remember how Allan Moyle’s Pump Up the Volume was pirate radio gold and Ferd Sebastian’s On the Air Live with Captain Midnight (1979) was a dented, tarnished pewter ale stein crusted in barnacles?

Welcome to the celluloid ship(shit)wreck that is Splitz. Remember that iconic, two word review of Spinal Tap’s 1980 album, Shark Sandwich, you known, their big “comeback album” and their first with Polymer and their first release after the death of drummer Peter “James” Bond? Remember: Shit Sandwich?

Yeah, it’s like that. Only we don’t get a cool song like “Sex Farm” in the bargain to help us swallow this celluloid defecate.

To assure us the full “split” effect, FVI gave us a sideways VHS sleeve/thanks again, Paul!

When your film has four screenwriters and nine producers, it’s a foregone conclusion that the movie is going to have problems. And looking at the credits and seeing the names of producers Kelly Van Horn (who also scripts) and Joan Van Horn (then credited as Joan Speigel Feinstein), we are dealing with a future husband and wife production team coming up with a script for a film that started out as Phi Beta Rockers. It’s an Animal House-cum-Porky’s* T&A rock ‘n’ roll romp about an all-female rock band coming to the aid of a down-and-out sorority house of the Delta House variety about to be shut down by the faux-Faber College of the film (but here it’s, yuk-yuk ha-ha, Hooter College). And like both of this film’s raison d’etre — which was promoted as a “female Animal House” — the final cut of Phi Beta Rockers carried an R-rating.

But when you’re in business with director-producer Domonic Paris’s New Empire Features, the shingle that gave us (in more ways than one) the suck fest (well, another shit sandwich) that is Dracula’s Last Rites, aka Last Rites (1980), and then signed on the dotted line with Film Ventures International (who we oft mention in the pages of B&S) as your distributor . . . well, your film is . . . it’s a foregone conclusion that your movie will suffer a PG-13 chop shop edit and be ye dubbed Splitz . . . for the sole purpose of having a cheerleader on the theatrical one-sheets and VHS sleeves doing, well, a split, because comedy is supposed to be a sexy n’ smutty double entendre.

After wowing us in Times Square, our beloved Robin Johnson deserved so much more from Tinselville, U.S.A. No wonder the ex-Sleez Sister left the business to become a helicopter traffic reporter for KFWB/Los Angeles.

As with Matt Dillon, a non-thespian who left an indelible impressions in his feature film debut with Over the Edge (1979), Robin Johnson — an engaging hybrid best described as Joan Jett meets Jo Polniaczek (actress Nancy McKeon’s character on NBC-TV’s The Facts of Life) — was plucked off the street by a member of RSO Records/Films (Robert Stigwood Organization) for the starring role of Nicky Marotta.

According to the Times Square backstory: Johnson signed with RSO (which oversaw the career of the Bee Gees, then stuck them in the bomb that was Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band — and killed Peter Frampton’s career in the process) with a promise the studio would develop more projects for her in which to star. When Times Square flopped at the box office (as well as its double-LP soundtrack on the charts) and RSO’s excitement for Johnson (both as an actress and singer) cooled, she was left scrambling to find to find work. She ended up in this, well, a career killer that even Robert Stigwood couldn’t cook up. (Can you see Robin Johnson, instead of Joan Jett, alongside Michael J. Fox in Light of Day? I can; Robin would have killed it.)

Here, Johnson is Gina Napoliani: just another street wise Italian girl with musical aptitude and leader of the new wave trio, Splitz, alon with Joan (Patti Lee; co-starred with a down-and-out Aldo Ray in something called Drug Runners before vanishing from the business) and Susie (Barbara Bingham; Terror at London Bridge and Friday the 13th Part VIII). Of course, since Gina is a sassy Neapolitan, her father must be a cliché mobster (Raymond Serra of too many TV series to mention, but the film Wolfen and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise). And the band’s manager must be a clichéd, well-intentioned ne’er-do-well with zero talent always on the make for the easy buck.

And to keep that Animal House vibe alive — but without the budget to afford John Vernon — be sure to hire Shirley Stoler from The Honeymoon Killers (1970) as your faux-Dean Wormer, aka Dean Hunta, here. And for the “comedy” of it all: whenever her name is spoken, ye shall hear the claps of thunder and the shall lights flicker in fear. And to thread together what those four screenwriters cooked up: be sure there’s lots of narration by the band’s manager, you know, so the viewers don’t get lost, which is a sure sign you’re at the Suckville Diner outside of Hoboken ordering a Shit Sandwich with a side of Tap Fries. (To her credit, while the movie stinks, Stoler’s very good in the role.)

Of course, Dean Hunta is evil, and has a little side hustle to make way for a sewage treatment plant to be built next to the campus (hey, that’s the plot from Playing For Keeps!). So ol’ Hunny pits the Sigma Phi (run by the Dean’s pet, Lois Scagliani; played by Forbes Riley, aka Francine Forbes, who made her debut in Splatter University and turned up later in Megiddo: The Omega Code 2) and the Delta Phi houses against the Phi Betas — with the fix being in, so the Phi Betas, aka the female Delta House slobs, lose.

And here’s when the ol’ “ensues” come in: A jiggle n’ skimpy shorts soccer match, ensues; a lingerie wrestling match, ensues; and a strip-basketball match, yes, ensues. Also along the way, Dean Hunta’s horny husband is a lecherous dentist who falls to sorority blackmail and our evil school mistress is hypnotized into being a stripper (Shirley Stoler is a robust woman, so, you know, a large woman stripping is, well, “funny,” we think). And then the trope-ridden mobsters show up. And Splitz get a record deal. And, also along the way, ’80s comedian Don Irrera mugs for the cameras as a trope-laden gangster (and makes it clear why he never got his own sitcom . . . and makes you wish Lord God of the Camera Mugging, Joe Piscopo, was here to do his Sinatra bit as a mobster-gag, or something). And, believe it or not, the filmmakers managed to shoot Splitz inside of the world famous CBGBs (and if only the Ramones showed up . . . or the Tuff Darts . . . or Blondie).

Okay, so much for the film. Now let’s crack open the soundtrack (trivia) to pump up the word count and achieve B&S About Movies editorial policy oneness.

The R-rated theatrical print has never been issued to VHS, but the subsequent PG-13 VHS version, which also played on cable TV via HBO and Cinemax, as well as USA’s Night Flight and Up All Night overnight-weekend programming blocks, found its way — surprisingly, considering the usual music licensing snafus that plague most soundtrack-laden ’80s comedies — to DVD in 2003 and 2014; that later Code Red version features an interview with director Domonic Paris.

Ack!

Don’t go trolling Discogs or the online marketplace copies of the film’s soundtrack, because there ain’t one to be had — which includes several songs that have never been commercially available in other formats beyond the film itself. While the film features new wave tunes by the never-heard-of-and-never-were Arlene Gold, Jana Jillo, and Sarah Larson, as well as the bands the Clonetones and American Patrol, the film also features the more established sound of Blondie (“Heart of Glass” and “One Way or Another”), John Haitt (“Crash Your Party”), Rick Derringer (“Mistake Magnifique” and “When Love Attacks”), and a couple of old Del Shannon tunes (“Sue’s Gotta Be Mine” and “So Long Baby”).

Needless to say, the presence of Blondie’s music makes all of the faux-new wave caterwauling sound like the D-List cat screeches that they were destined to be; for not every ’80s comedy soundtrack can be as cool as The Last American Virgin and Valley Girl, which this ain’t — by a longshot . . . or split.

The woman behind Splitz.

Another artist credited in the frames of Splitz is French singer Diane Scanlon, who recorded for Polydor and RCA Records in Europe, and doubles as Splitz. Scanlon has since stated she was unaware — for over thirty years — that her 1980 demo recording of “Suburban Nights” appeared in the U.S.-made film. And she claims she did not sing the other song in the film credited to her, “We’re a Miracle.”

Meanwhile, behind the lens: It turns out Kelly Van Horn’s meager beginnings with Dominic Paris on Last Rites and Splitz lead to bigger and better pictures, such as the Crocodile Dundee and City Slickers franchises, as well as Independence Day, Eight Legged Freaks, and Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla and The Day After Tomorrow. Joan Van Horn also enjoyed a long career behind the cameras on the sets of TV’s Seinfeld and the long-running Castle, as well as several theatrical reboots of classic ’70s Disney films. And proving all actors have to start somewhere: Tom McCleister, who stars, here, in his acting debut as the neanderthal college dope Warwick, carved himself a nice TV career that lead to a recurring role as Ike, one of Al Bundy’s buddies on Married with Children, and as Kolos on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

And here is where the film trivia really goes weird: Ronnie Taylor, who serves as the cinematographer, here, won an Oscar for lensing Gandhi (1982) the same year Splitz was released. Taylor’s final two films, for you Dario Argento fans, were the maestro’s The Phantom of the Opera (1998) and Sleepless (2001), for whome he also shot Opera (1987). Oh, and Ronnie Taylor shot the Who’s Tommy (1975). No, really.

From an innocuous, ’80s T&A comedy to Dario Argento by the guy who lensed Tommy. Only in the digitized pages of B&S About Movies. Go figure.

You can stream Splitz for free on Tubi.

You can click on these links to listen to the songs from the film on You Tube.

The uploads of the songs by American Patrol, Jana Jillio, and Diane Scanlon are courtesy of Phota You Tube. Thank you for your efforts in preserving these lost artists and making for a better film review.

* We dive deep into all of those Animal House and Porky’s knockoffs with our “Exploring: ’80s Comedies” featurette. And we dive deeper into the snobs vs. slobs genre of ’80s comedies with our “Drive-In Friday: Snobs vs. Slobs” feature. We also explore the history of Film Ventures International with a “Drive-In Friday” featurette dedicated to their films.

If you need more fake rock bands, we discuss them in our “Ten Bands Made Up for Movies” featurette.

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

Summer Job (1989)

If you need to see another film starring Amy Lynn Baxter, the adult actress-model who posed for the inside cover of Howard Stern’s book Private Parts — who also turned up in the also Florida-shot Golfballs! . . . but lets not forget Karate Warrior 2 and Cyber Vengeance — then you’ve found your film. And if having that Penthouse Playmate isn’t enough incentive . . . if you wanted to know where Sherrie Rose, the star of Giannetto De Ross’s Cy Warrior, Sergio Martino’s American Rickshaw, the really fine Me & Will, and David A. Prior’s Relentless Justice, got her start, then you’ve found your movie.

Ugh, is this another trivia-cum-backstory heavy review with no plot information?

Nope. But there ain’t much of one to tell.

The “plot,” such as it is, concerns the usual gaggle of four dumb n’ hot college coeds out for a vacation of sexual discovery and a bit o’ Animal House-styled college revenge — in between their summer job duties at a Miami resort. Then things, as we say to wrap it up, ensues . . . such as pranks, laughs, humor that’s not too raunchy but a whole lot of groan-inducing by way of rim shot sex jokes about “crabs” and “polar bears,” people accidentally dyeing their whole body in blue, and out of shape lifeguards. The guys our nubile college quartet are teasing follow the usual ’80s comedy tropes of being a cowboy, a geek, a fat dude, and a buff jock, you know, the eclectic types who are only are only friends in the movies and never in real life.

And that’s pretty much it as far as the plot goes. It’s a movie about horny guys and horny girls that we stumbled into on USA’s Up All Night weekend-overnight film blocks. So collect your empty soda and popcorn paraphernalia on your way out.

Now, onto the more interesting film soundtrack.

Yep. This movie was a pretty big deal in South Florida, back in the day.

So, how did two ex-ELO members — bassist Kelly Groucutt and violinist Mik Kaminski — become involved in an ’80s T&A comedy?

Well, Peter Kuys, who was Kelly Groucutt’s executive producer for his solo album, Kelly (1982), and the debut album, Beyond the Dream (1991), by his band OrKestra, served as the soundtrack consultant for Summer Job. Teen comedies were a hot commodity at the time, so Kuys seen it as a great way to promote the band, convincing Groucutt and company to provide six tracks from the album to the film (“Some Kind Of Magic,” “Bring On The Dancing Girls,” “Hold On To Love,” “Don’t Give Up,” “Don’t Turn Away,” and “Rock & Roll Fever”). The band also appears towards the end of the film as a band hired to play at a pool party (to promote the single “Some Kind of Magic”). A Croucutt solo tune, “Old Rock & Roller,” also appears in the film.

There’s more flicks with real life band cameos to discover in our “Ten Band Cameos in Movies” featurette.

A solo bound Jack Green — a Scottish musician who served as the bassist in classic rockers T.Rex and the Rolling Stones-related the Pretty Things — provides four more songs with “Sweet Lover,” “Win Your Love,” “Another Day, Another Dollar,” and “I Really Love Your Money,” which appear on his third RCA solo album, Mystique (1983). (Several of Green’s tunes also appears in the Lynn Redgrave-fronted low-budget comedy-horror, Midnight (1989), which also appeared on his forth album, Latest Game (1986). Members of Rainbow — with whom Green briefly toured as their bassist — guested on Green’s album, most notably, Ritchie Blackmore.)

Keyboardist Ike Stubblefield, who also appears on the soundtrack with four songs, served as a Motown studio and touring keyboardist for their artist roster throughout the ’60s and ’70s, as well as touring and recording with Eric Clapton.

Okay, enough soundtrack trivia, let’s back to the movie.

Director Paul Madden made his feature film debut with the only other film of his we really care about, Medium Rare (1987), since it stars a pre-Rocky Burt Young . . . and Brad Dourif (!) . . . and Sy Richardson (!!). If you want a movie about pet poodles dying by microwave (it’s a comedy, after all!), then you found your movie. Writer Ralph Gaby Wilson gave us one more flick, again, the only one we care about since it’s a ’70s TV movie starring Yvette Mimieux, CBS-TV’s Outside Chance (1978).

You can watch the full movie on You Tube and enjoy the complete soundtrack on You Tube.

Oh, and fans of the old USA Network programming of the ’80s may want to pop on over to our “Drive-In Friday: USA’s Night Flight . . . Night!” featurette as we discuss the USA-ran films Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains, Liquid Sky, The Brain, and Kentucky Fried Movie. Fans of ’80s comedies may also want to surf on over to our “Exploring: ’80s Comedies” feature.

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.

The Beatles: Influence on Film

This is the final segment of our three-part series. We’ve discovered 33 films in the series, with 11 films each over the past three days — at 3 PM — as part of our third “Rock ‘n’ Roll Week” installment.

The films are listed by year of release.

“Rubber Soul Black & White” image courtesy of Veronica Kim-Pinterest (pinimg.com) via Esty/logo courtesy of 60s Girl Deviant Art/banner design by R.D Francis

Nowhere Boy (2009)

Imagine This: Growing Up With My Brother John Lennon by Lennon’s half-sister Julia Baird fuels this tale. Sam Taylor-Johnson — who earned a Golden Raspberry nod for Worst Director on her sophomore film, Fifty Shades of Grey (2015) — makes her directorial debut with this examination of John Lennon’s (an excellent Aaron Taylor-Johnson) adolescence, his relationships with his aunt Mimi Smith, and his mother Julia Lennon, and the creation of his first band, the Quarrymen, and its evolution into the Beatles.

Lennon Naked (2010)

After watching the early years of Lennon in Nowhere Boy, and one’s left wondering what the final year of Lennon’s life was like in the Beatles, this BBC-TV produced TV movie, which ended up on the U.S. pay cable network Showtime as a first-run movie, answers those questions. Christopher Eccleston as Lennon is excellent throughout, as this clips proves. Chilling.


George Harrison: Living in the Material World (2011)

Look, Hollywood is too busy mucking up the histories of Elton John, Freddie Mercury, and Nikki Sixx to give “The Quiet Beatle” a bioflick or Netflix mini-series proper. Besides, when Martin Scorsese takes a break from the mobster flicks to pay tribute to the life and times of George Harrison, you break editorial rules and include the documentary on the list.

This is buoyed by Paul and Ringo showing up, along with Harrison’s widow Olivia, and his son Dhani, as well as Tom Petty and Eric Clapton. Not only do we learn about George’s time with the Beatles; the seven-years-in-the-making film delves deeply into his solo career, including his work with the Concert for Bangladesh and the delightful Traveling Wilburys project.

Good Ol’ Freda (2013)

The subject matter here is such an out-of-left field twist in the history of Beatles flicks, we had to break editorial policy for a third time to mention this fascinating documentary on the life of Fredy Kelly: a fellow Liverpudlian hired by Brian Epstein as the Beatles’ Fan Club secretary. What makes this all work is the lack of sensationalism, courtesy of Kelly’s humble soul in respecting the privacies of her world-famous friends, but still telling us many things we did not know.

Danny Collins (2015)

In 1971, 21-year old Bristol, England, folk musician Steve Tilston released his critically acclaimed debut album, An Acoustic Confusion, and the 1972 sophomore follow up, Collection.

In a 1971 ZigZag magazine interview, Tilston admitted — inspired by the editor/writer’s accolades for Tilson’s work — that he feared wealth and fame might negatively affect his songwriting.

Inspired, John Lennon wrote to Tilston — in care of ZigZag — to offer the upcoming musician encouragement, “. . . Being rich doesn’t change your experience in the way you think,” Lennon wrote. It was signed, “Love, John and Yoko.” It turned out that, upon receipt of the letter, the magazine’s editor, believing Lennon’s letter “had value,” greedily kept the document; it was never turned over to Tilston.

How wicked the Fates: If the Lennon letter had been turned over to Tilston, would he and Lennon have forged a friendship? Would Lennon’s words have encouraged Tilston not to give up on the music business?

Tilston did not become aware of the letter’s existence until 2005, when a collector contacted him to verify the document’s authenticity. When the story was officially reported in the music trades in August 2010, it inspired this 2015 Al Pacino-starring film.

While the movie has it charms, and Pacino is endearing as a non-folkie, but poppy-ersatz Neil Diamond (check out the great original, “Hey, Baby Doll,” which was purposely crafted as a Diamond soundalike to “Sweet Caroline”), the excitement over a movie with such an obscure Beatles connection quickly fades due to us being treated to a film “based on Steve Tilston’s life” and not about Steve Tilston.

No, we don’t see Lennon or Yoko, either.

The Lennon Report (2016)

Pair this Beatles flick with either of the Mark David Chapman flicks to learn of the aftermath of Chapman’s motives. It purports to be the “true story” of the moments after John Lennon was shot. Lennon’s murder is seen through eyes of a young news producer poised to break the biggest story of the year, and the emergency room staff of Roosevelt Hospital realizing the true identity of their “John Doe,” and their race against time to save his life, all the while keeping his identity, private.

Eight Days a Week — The Touring Years (2017)

Okay, so we’re doing Ron Howard solid by mentioning his documentary because of his rock flick pedigree with the very cool NBC-TV movie Cotton Candy (1978). Howard explores the Beatles’ touring years and answers the questions as to why they stopped touring in 1966 to focus solely on recording in the studio. Its expertly assembled, as expected with a Ron Howard production, and well worth the watch, even for those who eschew documentaries of any subject.

Paul Is Dead (2018)

Paul McCartney didn’t die in a car crash, as commonly rumored, in this comedic “What If . . .” flick. And he wasn’t murdered by Billy Shears, either. Paul simply died from a drug overdose during an experimental, countryside musical retreat — the drugs were George’s — and replaced by the look-alike, local sheep herder, Billy Shears.

You can learn more about the film and free-stream it on the film’s official website, or watch it on Vimeo. There’s also two, wonderful fiction books that play with the myth of Billy Shears: The Memoirs of Billy Shears (2018) by Thomas E. Uharriet, and Billy Shears: The Secret History of the Beatles (2020) by Bruce “Doctor” Lev. Either book would make for a wonderful feature film.

Scrambled Eggs (2019)

Produced as part of the U.K.’s SKY Network’s Emmy Award-nominated series Urban Myths, the installments delve into fictionalized stories about the legends of the acting and music industries. Writer Simon Nye (who also wrote the Season 2/Episode 8 installment, “The Sex Pistols vs. Billy Grundy“) weaves this tale (Season 3/Episode 7) based on interviews Paul McCartney has given over the years about how he developed the melody to “Yesterday.” In comical twist: Paul is so dumbfounded that he came up such a mature melody, he drives everyone crazy over his paranoid that he “stole” the melody from another, popular song.

You can learn more about the Urban Myths series at Sky.com. You can also stream it on U.S shores via Showtime and Hulu. You can also stream the full 20-minute film on You Tube, and sample the with film with the highlight reel, below.

Yesterday (2019)

So, was it worth shelling $10 million dollars for the rights to the Beatles’ catalog in this Richard Curtis-penned romantic comedy (Love Actually and The Boat that Rocked) directed by Danny Boyle (Oscar-winner Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting)?

Yes. We said “romantic comedy.” Yes, by Richard Curtis, who gave us Bridget Jones movies and hooked up the likes of Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts in Notting Hill.

And “the Beatles” . . . well, an actor portraying John Lennon (John Lennon scene/You Tube) shows up. But he’s not the “John Lennon” we know: he lives a quite, non-musical life as an artist (at the age of 78) in a beach side cottage sipping tea. Why? Because we’re in an alternate timeline (caused by a bump on the noggin’ during a worldwide blackout) where the Beatles don’t exist . . . but struggling musician Jack Malik, does. And he records a worldwide smash, debut album comprised of Lennon-McCartney compositions, well Jack Malik compositions.

The Beatles: Get Back (2021)

Yeah, we know we said “no documentaries.” But after breaking policy for Martin Scorsese and Ron Howard with their high-quality theatrical documents, how can we pass up Lord Peter Jackson restoring and reediting Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s Let It Be (1970) for a reissue under its original work title. And, as it turns out, in Jackson’s cut, the Beatles were getting along better than we were lead to believe.

Seriously, which you would want: the Beatles getting the “Freddie Mercury” or “Elton John” treatment, or a Peter Jackson document on the Beatles?

If only George and John were here to experience it with Paul and Ringo.

Courtesy of 1000 Logos.

Thank you for joining us in our three part series on the influence of the Beatles on cinema.

Here’s the complete list of the films we reviewed in the series:

Part 1

Yellow Submarine (1968)
All this and World War II (1976)
All You Need is Cash (1978)
I Wanna Hold Your Hand (1978)
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978)
Birth of the Beatles (1979)
Beatlemania: The Movie (1981)
John and Yoko: A Love Story (1985)
Concrete Angels (1987)
The Hours and Times (1991)
Secrets (1992)

Part 2

Backbeat (1994)
That Thing You Do! (1995)
The Linda McCartney Story (2000)
Paul Is Dead (2000)
Two of Us (2000)
I Am Sam (2001)
The Rutles 2: Can’t Buy Me Lunch (2002)
Across the Universe (2007)
Chapter 27 (2007)
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007)
The Killing of John Lennon (2008)

Part 3

Nowhere Boy (2009)
Lennon Naked (2010)
George Harrison: Living in the Material World (2011)
Good Ol’ Freda (2013)
Danny Colllins (2015)
The Lennon Report (2016)
Eight Days a Week — The Touring Years (2017)
Paul Is Dead (2018)
Scrambled Eggs (2019)
Yesterday (2019)
The Beatles: Get Back (2021)

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