APRIL MOVIE THON DAY 30: Wired (1989)

Judith Belushi, the widow of comedian John, and his manager Bernie Brillstein asked Robert Woodward — the writer of All the President’s Men and the man who joined who Carl Bernstein to break the story of Watergate — to write a book about Belushi to counter the many rumors that had started after the comedian’s death on March 5, 1982.

I can remember that day. I was ten years old, came home from school and we heard the story on the radio on the way to dinner. I’d been a fan of Saturday Night Live since it started, even if in Pittsburgh we watched it on a different channel that the NBC affiliate as Chiller Theater was such a big deal.

Woodward and Belushi were from the same town in Illinois and had friends in common. Belushi was even a fan. But after the writer interviewed numerous people and wrote his book, he never showed it to John’s widow. What followed was Wired. a sensationalist book that painted exactly the picture that Judith and Brillstein wanted to never be known.

Tanner Colby, who had co-authored the 2005 book Belushi: A Biography with Judith, said of Woodward’s book: “It’s like someone wrote a biography of Michael Jordan in which all the stats and scores are correct, but you come away with the impression that Michael Jordan wasn’t very good at playing basketball.”

A major example that critics cite is that in the book, John Landis has to guide Belushi by the hand in how to perform the cafeteria scene in Animal House. Those there content that Belushi did the scene in one improvised take all on his own.

Belushi’s best friend and fellow Blues Brother Dan Aykroyd beyond hated the book and said that Woodward “spoke with me about an hour and a half, and you know there’s things in the book I don’t remember saying to him…”

He went on to say “He certainly has avoided the issue of what a funbag John was, what a great guy he was, what a warm, humorous, really, you know…concerned, and bright, educated, well-read individual this guy was. How did he get to be so successful? He was smart, you know, he wasn’t just given his break, and he had to work for what he had, and Woodward completely skirts that, and it’s a depressing, sordid, tragic book…and for my part I just think that it’s really depressing reading.”

Woodward wanted to sell the movie rights as soon as the book was published, but found no buyers. He said, “A large portion of Hollywood didn’t want this movie made because there’s too much truth in it.”

Producers Edward S. Feldman (the man who got both Hot Dog…the Movie and Hamburger the Motion Picture made; he also produced The HitcherThe Truman Show and Witness) and Charles R. Meeker were the folks brave enough to fund the film. It was written by Earl Mac Rauch — yes, the same writer of The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension — and directed by Larry Peece, who also made AIP’s The Big T.N.T. Show, The Other Side of the Mountain and A Woman Named Jackie.

The movie makes a wild departure from the book by having Belushi be followed by a guardian angel (Ray Sharkey!) who is leading him to either Heaven or Hell. They had to do something, as they were given no rights to anything connected to Saturday Night Live. If that something was a The Seventh Seal pastiche with pinball instead of chess, that was what they did.

Wired had problems finding a distributor as many of the major studios refused to distribute it. Now was that because of the conspiracy that people didn’t want the public to know how bad drugs were or because the movie is so insufferably bad? The jury is out but leaning toward the latter.

Brillstein believed that the filmmakers made up the controversy to sell this movie like William Castle would, saying “The only thing that the producers have to hang on to is the image of Wired as “the movie that Hollywood tried to stop.” When it played Cannes, the reception was hostile, with reporters attacking Woodward with questions about why he was a character in the movie.

John Landis threatened to sue and he’s not even named in the movie but suggested. Then again, helicopter noises play when he appears to hammer home that this is the same person who killed Vic Morrow and two children on the set of The Twilight Zone: The Movie. And Aykroyd pulled no punches, saying “I have witches working now to jinx the thing. I hope it never gets seen and I am going to hurl all the negative energy I can and muster all my hell energies. My thunderbolts are out on this one, quite truthfully.” A year later, he got J.T. Walsh, who plays Woodward in this movie, fired from the movie Loose Cannons.

You know who got the worst out of this? Michael Chiklis, in one of his first roles, who isn’t horrible as Belushi. He was picked out of tons of actors for the role and it took years for his acting career to recover. That said, he personally apologized to Jim Belushi when they met and the two embraced, as Belushi was always under the impression Chiklis was deceived as well by the producers. For his part, Jim visited the office of Feldman and trashed his desk.

As for the film itself, it moves through Belushi’s life in a non-linear fashion, with made up sketches like “Samurai Baseball,” the Blues Brothers singing Wilson Pickett’s “634-5789” and Belushi as a bee singing Slim Harpo’s “I’m a King Bee” invented for the film — again due to Lorne Michaels refusing to allow the movie to use any of Saturday Night Live‘s IP — and then a close where Belushi sings Joe Cocker’s “You Are So Beautiful to Me” alongside the real Billy Preston, the only person from that era to be involved with this film.

It also totally takes a few pages from Sid and Nancy by having a cab ride symbolize the boat across the river Styx and having Joe Strummer’s song “Love Kills” play.

There’s a great story about the life and death of John Belushi, one of triumph and tragedy, intelligence and sadly, stupidity. But this? This will never be it.

APRIL MOVIE THON DAY 30: The Weird World of LSD (1967)

I thought LSD was going to make me see the gods that live beyond the wall of sleep and wait for us to notice us and then drive man mad, but instead this movie taught me that I’ll just think I’m a chicken, play with cats or eat a ham sandwich, which are all things I do just about every day without needing to take any drugs.

Fog, so much fog. Chocolate blood. So many stripteases. Are acid trips really in black and white? Rubber masks. Mannequins. How is this made in Tampa — I think — and no one from a Herschell Gordon Lewis movie shows up?

This is under an hour and feels like four and I think that should tell you what LSD is all about.

Nice poster, though.

APRIL MOVIE THON DAY 30: Psychedelic Sex Kicks (1967)

“No two trips are alike. Even if you can’t fly now and pay later, you don’t need to book a round-trip fare because you never come back the same way. It’s the leaving and going that counts.”

I hope the next trip I am on does not have people body painting each other while a man drones on, but you have to take the journey where the journey takes you. I mean, you meet a guy with a pan flute, you know what you’re getting into.

I’ve never been to a drug party cool enough to have Cara Peters from Suburban PagansSpace Things (during which she used the name Legs Benedict) and Massacre Mafia Style (a movie that she appeared in using the very Italian name Cara Salerno). She’s the best part of that last movie, by the way.

APRIL MOVIE THON DAY 30: The Scare Film Archives Volume 1: Drug Stories!

Something Weird has made out lives so much richer, saving the strange, the smutty, the scary and everything in between. Working with the American Genre Film Archives, they created this mixtape of sheer lunacy which adds up the scare films of the past. You’ll never do drugs again until the next time to do drugs.

This blu ray has the following movies, all uncut and in 2K:

Beyond LSD (1967): This movie astounded me because instead of telling parents that their kids are maniacs, it tells them to listen to them because they’re going through some things. How is this even real?

Director Paul Burnford mainly made shorts and documentary films, like 1944’s Nostradamus IV and the 1943 blood transfusion ten-minute epic Brothers in Blood. He also directed the first movie in the Rusty series and an entry in the A Crime Does Not Pay series, Dark Shadows, which is about a psychiatrist matching wits with a killer.

In short — it’s less about drugs and more about how to treat your kids. It’s still relevant today.

The Bottle and the Throttle (1961, 1968): Narrated by Timothy Farrell, who was one of the two narrators and the psychiatrist in Glen or Glenda, as well Girl Gang, Pin-Down GirlDance Hall RacketTest Tube BabiesThe Violent YearsJail Bait and many more. He was also a bailiff for the Los Angeles Marshal’s Department when he was acting in movies like Paris After Midnight, which was raided by the Los Angeles Vice Squad during filming.

A bunch of kids a drinking beach beers — Budweiser, Schlitz and Hamm’s — and Bill has had one too many. He ends up driving home and killing a child and breaking the back of her mother. Was it worth it?

Do you remember that wheel of how many drinks you had and how long until you sober up back in driver’s ed or health class? Man, I used to think of that all the time and here I am, now trying to gauge edibles which are magical and unpredictable lunacy when compared to whiskey.

The major difference between the 1961 and 1968 films is that the former is made with the help of the Culver City Police Department and the Culver City Unified School District while the latter is made with the West Covina Police Department. I’d like to think these organizations were scammed and paid twice for one movie.

“The little girl died on the way to the hospital and the mother will probably never walk again. No matter how your trial comes out, you’ll always have to live with those facts, won’t you Bill. A child dead. A mother crippled. Not a pleasant future to face at the age of 18.”

Pure nihilism.

Sidney Davis Productions also made The DropoutBoys Beware (an anti-homosexual scare movie), the Ib Melchior-directed — yes, the guy who wrote Death Race 2000 and directed The Angry Red Planet — Keep Off the GrassSkateboard Sense and LSD: Trip or Trap!

Curious Alice (1971): Dave Dixon, the Culture Czar, was the lead DJ of the legendary “Air Aces” on Detroit’s rock station WABX and the first person to play Sabbath, The Doors, Led Zeppelin and The Doors in the Motor City. Beyond co-writing Peter, Paul and Mary’s “I Dig Rock & Roll Music,” he co-wrote this animated film that explains drugs through Alice In Wonderland which is totally right on with the kids and four years after Jefferson Airplane did the same thing in “White Rabbit.”

The art in this movie is mind-boggling, however, and you’ll be entranced as Alice learns about LSD from the Mad Hatter, speed from the March Hare, heroin from the King of Hearts and barbituates from the Dormouse.

Made by the National Institute of Mental Health in 1971 and meant for use with ten-year-old students, if I had seen this before my teen years I would have done all the drugs in high school. The National Coordinating Council on Drug Education agreed, writing that viewers “may be intrigued by the fantasy world of drugs” after watching it.

The Distant Drummer (1970): A short-lived series of four 22-minute American documentary films that warned the kids about drugs, these were all directed by William Templeton (The Fallen Idol) and written by Don Peterson.

The first two movies in this series, A Movable Scene and A Movable Feast, were narrated by Robert Mitchum, who served 43 days at a California prison farm for possession of marijuana in 1948, a conviction that was overturned in 1951.

Here’s just a sample of Mitchum’s speech: “Thousands of snapshots on police station walls remain the only link between many of America’s most affluent families and the children who embodied their great expectations. Nearly everyone in the hippie community smokes marijuana — whether they call it pot, grass, hemp, gage, joint or mary jane — the marijuana is the basic background for the shared drug experience. The experience is shared to such an extent that roach pipes are always in demand — a roach is a marijuana butt and it requires some form of holder for those last few drags. The new generation, whether they are runaways or rebels-in-residence, use marijuana as a symbol of discontent with the basic values of the establishment. For some, there exists a social imperative beyond flaunting society’s rules — for these adventurers the mind-expanding drugs open a window on a whole new frontier…”

The other two parts, Bridge from No Place and Flowers of Darkness, were narrated by Rod Steiger and Paul Newman.

Drugs, Drinking and Driving (1971): Herbert Moskowitz is now here to explain why you should never mix the three things in the title. I love that this movie has no issues with using the Mission: Impossible theme over and over and over, flaunting copyright law with each successive refrain.

This also seems pre-Jackass with a stunt where two drivers are each given drugs, one amphetamine and one barbituates, and then told to drive for 36 hours straight until they either pass out or wreck their cars.

LSD: Insight or Insanity (1967): “Now, everybody who takes it admits that there’s always the risk of a bad trip, a bummer, a freak-out, even a flip-out. But, why be lame, baby? Give yourself a real kick. Yes, a kick in the head!”

That’s Sal Mineo talking in this Max Miller-directed (the same dude who made the Sonny Bono anti-drug movie Marijuana) film which explains what LSD is, how it’s made and when people take it they jump in front of cars and take leaps off cliffs like Diane Linkletter out of the windows of the Shoreham Towers, blamed on LSD even if the last person who saw her alive — Edward Dunston — may have also was the last person to see actress Carol Wayne alive. Then again, both Dunstons could be different people and for some other reason, people seem to confuse them with David E. Durston, the man who taught us that Satan was an acidhead in I Drink Your Blood.

See, I may make some detours, but I always get you back on the road.

This ends with a Russian Roulette freakout and Mineo singing over the closing credits, which inform us that everyone in this movie was not an actor. You won’t be surprised.

LSD 25 (1967): Directed by David Parker and written by Hank Harrison — the father of Courtney Love — this movie is narrated by an LSD tab which proves that the creators of this may very well be getting high on their own supply.

“Today, you’re high. Tomorrow, you’re dead.”

Yes, LSD starts all happy explaining all the good things it does and by the end, your fingerprints can’t get out of any police database.

So go ahead and take that sugar cube. You’ll learn all the secrets of the infinite and then, you know, you won’t be able to tell anyone.

Because you’ll be dead.

Narcotics the Decision: Goofballs and Tea (1958): Written by Pittsburgh native Roger Emerson Garris, who was the story editor for the Sherlock Holmes TV series, this police training film is all about barbituates and marijuana. Yes, people once called drugs these words.

Narrated by Art Gilmore, who was on Dragnet and voiced the radio announcer on The Waltons, this movie lets kids know that it starts with sneaking their parent’s booze and ends up with you in jail, dead or worse. Avoid weed, avoid malt shops, avoid everything.

None for the Road (1957): Margaret Travis wrote 83 shorts that we know of, movies like The Other Fellow’s FeelingsHealth: Your Clothing and Rowan and Martin on the Driveway One Fine Day, an industrial film for Phillips 66 Petroleum where the future Laugh-In stars run a gas station. This movie, too.

But the director? That’s Herk Harvey, who made around four hundred or more industrial films like Shake Hands with Danger. And one very important movie, Carnival of Souls.

Three men all use alcohol in different ways: not at all, a little and too much. They’re like the lab rats that we later see injected with alcohol, which sounds like a good way to spend a weekend. But wow, we’ve been warning people about drunk driving for 65 years and not everyone listens.

The Trip Back (1970): It’s no accident that an episode of Strangers With Candy was titled “The Trip Back.” Jerri Blank on that show is literally the star of this movie, Florrie Fisher, played for comic effect.

Fisher was married four times by the time she filmed this speech, first an arranged marriage, then to a pimp, then another drug addict and finally to a man she met via the mail. She credited her recovery to Synanon, which was originally established as a drug rehabilitation program and became one of the most dangerous and violent cults America had ever seen.

Wait, what?

Founded by Charles E. “Chuck” Dederich Sr., Synanon — a mix of togetherness (“syn”) with the unknown (“anon”) — was an alternative community centered on group truth-telling sessions called the “Synanon Game”, a form of attack therapy during which participants humiliated one another and exposed each other’s innermost weaknesses. There are theories that Dedereich was given LSD by Dr. Keith S. Dittman and Dr. Sidney Cohen, as well as encouraged to start Synanon as part of the CIA MK Ultra program.

Headquarted in a former beachfront hotel in Santa Monica called the Club Casa del Mar, women who joined Synanon had to shave their heads. Men were given forced vasectomies. Pregnant women were forced to abort their babies. Married couples were broken up and had to take new partners as the group became the Church of Synanon.

After Synanon’s transition into an alternate society in 1968, the game became a 72-hour ordeal for most members. The program of rehabilitation went from two years to a lifetime rehabilitation program, as they now preached that addicts would never truly be well enough to return to society.

Throughout this period, San Francisco area media covered the adult and child abuse caused by the church, but were often sued for libel by Synanon’s lawyers. If all of this sounds like Scientology, well…there was a group within the group called the Imperial Marines authorized to beat members into oblivion.

When NBC started reporting on the church in the late 70s, executives received hundreds of threats and Paul Morantz, a lawyer who had helped members escape, had a de-rattled rattlesnake placed in his mailbox. It bit him and put him in the hospital. A police search found a tape of Dederich speaking about Morantz, saying: “We’re not going to mess with the old-time, turn-the-other-cheek religious postures. Our religious posture is: Don’t mess with us. You can get killed dead, literally dead/ These are real threats. They are draining life’s blood from us, and expecting us to play by their silly rules. We will make the rules. I see nothing frightening about it. I am quite willing to break some lawyer’s legs, and next break his wife’s legs, and threaten to cut their child’s arm off. That is the end of that lawyer. That is a very satisfactory, humane way of transmitting information. I really do want an ear in a glass of alcohol on my desk.”

The teachings of Synanon influenced groups like CEDU, Daytop Village (the very place Nancy Reagan visited and became aware of the drug problem, which led to Just Say No), Phoenix House and those boot camps that always show up on daytime talk shows.

Back to Florrie Fisher.

An interview with David Susskind led to her appearing on The Mike Douglas Show, speaking at schools and an autobiography, The Lonely Trip Back. This film captures her speaking at a New York City high school, barraging the audience with a rambling dissertation on turning tricks, six of her marijuana friends all dying in the chair, jailhouse sapphic antics and shouting things like “I now know that I can’t smoke one stick of pot! I can’t take one snort of horse! I can’t take one needle of cocaine because I am an addictive personality! And that’s all I need is one of anything. Ya know I need one dress. If I happen to like this dress in tan, I buy the same dress in green and black and pink. This is the type of personality I am!”

Despite how horrible Synanon was for some, it worked for Florrie. Sadly, she died during the lecture tour she’s on in this movie due to liver cancer and kidney failure.

This movie is totally worth the price of this entire blu ray.

Users Are Losers (1971): Think drugs are for teens? This kid is saving up his milk money to pay for his habit, doing odd jobs and being incredibly thrifty just to get some marijuana. It made me think, parents are always on kids for throwing their money away, but this kid knows what he wants, works hard for it and then is selfless and shares what he gets with his friends.

Some kids also find one of their friends dead on a mattress and some young narc says, “If you blow pot, you’re blowing your future.” Get off my TV, kid.

Plus, you also get DRUG STORIES! NARCOTIC NIGHTMARES AND HALLUCINOGENIC HELLRIDES, a full-length mixtape from the AGFA team.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I must go blow some pot. Get toasty toast. Go clambaking. Fly Mexican Airlines. Run within an endless field. Walk the green ducks. Roll into the Backwoods. Be a ninja. Do some chiefing at the Rooney statue.

You can get this from Vinegar Syndrome.

APRIL MOVIE THON DAY 30: Grass (1999)

Ron Mann also made Comic Book Confidential, which is one of my favorite documentaries, as well as movies about Big Daddy Roth, Robert Altman, free jazz, the twist and Margaret Atwood. Joined by writer Solomon Vesta and narrator Woody Harrelson — no stranger to the kind bud and who did this movie for free — Grass takes a decade by decade approach to the history of US federal policies and social attitudes toward marijuana.

In the two decades since this film, eighteen states, Washington, D.C. and Guam are all legal United States places to recreationally get baked. and thirteen states have decriminalized marijuana. Yet how much money and how many lives were ruined by the “War On Drugs,” which really got started when Harry Anslinger started the idea that sativa and marijuana would make you insane. That war continued through Richard Nixon creating the DEA, to Nancy Reagan urging us to just say no and Bill Clinton increasing spending to arrest drug dealers and users.

In 2015, the Drug Policy Alliance, which advocates for an end to the war, estimated that the America spends $51 billion each year on anti-drug endeavors and in the fifty years of the War On Drugs spent $1 trillion dollars.

This is something that has been known since 2011, the Global Commission on Drug Policy released a critical report that said, “The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world. Fifty years after the initiation of the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and years after President Nixon launched the US government’s war on drugs, fundamental reforms in national and global drug control policies are urgently needed.”

Mann so urgently believed in the message of this movie — which uses archive footage and clips from movies like Reefer Madness — that he released for free.

APRIL MOVIE THON DAY 30

We made it! The last day of the April Movie Thon!

April 30: Drugs, Drugs, Drugs — Close us out by getting us super high and sharing your supply.

Here are a few to get you started.

More (1969): Mimsy Farmer doing real drugs, Pink Floyd playing any time a radio gets turned on and the kind of movie that will make you think twice about doing any drugs and then realize you’d do anything for Mimsy Farmer.

La Venganza de los Punks(1987): “Long live death, cocaine, marijuana and alcohol!”

Valley of the Dolls (1967): “I’m scared. I’ve forgotten how to sleep without dolls. I can’t get through a day without a doll. Please, Lyon, don’t send me there. I need a doll! Lyon, don’t leave me here! Just give me a doll!”

What are you watching?

APRIL MOVIE THON DAY 29: Watch the series: Freaky Friday (1975, 1996, 2003, 2018, 2020)

Freaky Friday started as a novel written by Mary Rodgers, based on Vice Versa: A Lesson to Fathers by F. Anstey, a story in which the protagonists are father and son. In Rodgers’ book, 13-year-old Annabel Andrews and her mother spend time in each other’s bodies. The novel was so popular that Disney as made it four times an Rodgers also mae several sequels herself, such as A Billion for Boris/ESPTV and Summer Switch (which ABC made into TV movies). The major difference between the novel and the films is that an outside influence switches the mother and daughter against their wills.

Freaky Friday (1976): “I wish I could switch places with her for just one day.” That’s all it takes to start off this crazy adventure for Ellen Harris (Barbara Harris) and her daughter Annabel (Jodie Foster).

Based on the 1972 novel by Mary Rodgers — who also wrote the screenplay — the magic that switches the mother and daughter in this movie is quite simple. In Friday the 13th, all you have to do is say, “I wish I could switch places with her for just one day” and it happens.

Actually, this whole thing reminds me of Goofy Minds the House, a 1977 Disney Wonderful World of Reading storybook that features the character Goofy and his wife switching jobs for one day and learning that they both have rough lives. That story was based on a Norwegian folktale and taught me that women were much stronger than men. Also — Goofy once had a wife named Mrs. Geef and Mrs. Goof, but now he’s thought to be dating Clarabelle the Cow, so something happened at some point. Perhaps even odder, Goofy was once called Dippy Dawg.

But I digress.

Just as much as that story is part of my childhood, so is Freaky Friday, a movie that I know for a fact that I saw at the Spotlite 88 Drive-In in Beaver Falls, PA.

Ellen Andrews and her daughter Annabel are constantly battling with one another until they switch places, which enables each of them to see life from the other side, connect better with other people and, of course, water ski.

The cast of this movie is made up of people that a five year old me would see as big stars, like John Astin, Dick Can Patten, Charlene Tilton, Marc McClure and, of course, Boss Hogg. Strangely enough, George Lucas wanted Foster for the role of Princess Leia, but her mother wanted her to complete her contract to Disney.

Disney can’t seem to stop remaking this movie. And really, no one else can either, because it’s the mother of body switch comedies, including 18 Again!All of Me, Dream a Little DreamVice Versa and Freaky, a film which combines the Friday the 13th of this story with the slasher side of the holiday.

Freaky Friday (1995): This made-for-TV movie has Shelly Long as Ellen and Gaby Hoffman (the daughter of Warhol superstar Viva) as Annabelle. A pair of magical amulets causes the two of them to switch bodies in this version and waterskiing has been replaced with diving.

Ellen is also a single mother dating Bill (Alan Rosenberg) and designing clothing, which is the 90s version of being a housewife. What livens this up is a great cast with Drew Carey, Sandra Bernhard, Carol Kane and the much-missed Taylor Negron.

Writer Stu Krieger wrote The Parent Trap IIA Troll in Central ParkZenon: Girlof the 21st Century and Phantom of the Megaplex while director Melanie Mayron is probably best known for playing Melissa Steadman on Thirtysomething even though she has more than sixty directing credits on her resume.

The other big change is that when Annabelle is in Ellen’s body, she tells Bill exactly how much she dislikes him, thinking it will push him away. Instead, he proposes.

Forgive me for being weird, but…do these characters ever have to make love in these bodies? Because, well, that could be awkward.

Freaky Friday (2003): I spoke too soon about the sexual side of Freaky Friday, as this movie, while chaste, does not shy away from the fact that Jake (Chad Michael Murray) has feelings for Anna (Lindsay Lohan) no matter if she’s in her body or the body of her mother, Tess (Jamie Lee Curtis). The attraction that Jake feels, while mental, is way hotter than the way Marc McClure reacted to Barbara Harris.

Written by Heather Hach (Legally Blonde: The MusicalWhat To Expect When You’re Expecting and a gym teacher in this movie) and Leslie Dixon (OverboardLoverboy, the 2007 Hairspray) and directed by Mark Walters (who worked with Dixon again on Just Like Heaven; he also directed Mean GirlsGhosts of Girlfriends Past, the gender-swapped He’s All That and Mr. Popper’s Penguins), this take on the story retains the single mother idea from the 1995 TV movie and has Mark Harmon play Ryan, the potential new father in Anna’s life.

Lohan’s character was originally written as a goth girl and she didn’t think anyone would relate to that, so she showed up dressed like a preppie. Somehow, she was convinced to play a grunge girl instead. I mean, she has a band called Pink Slip and plays guitar instead of water skiing or driving.

The McGuffin that drives this film is a pair of fortune cookies mixed with an earthquake switches bodies for Anna and Tess, which leads to Anna lecturing teachers and Tess being more loud and wild.

As for the casting, it really works. The original idea was for Jodie Foster to play Tess, but she didn’t like the stunt casting. Then, Annette Bening and Kelly Osbourne were going to be the leads — with Tom Selleck as Ryan — but Bening dropped out and Osbourne’s mother got cancer.

Probably the only downside is that this movie falls back on that Hollywood cliche of Asian people being able to magically change lives.

Is it weird that I know that the band Orgy taught Jamie Lee how to play guitar? Why do I have these facts inside my head? And how weird is it to hear “Flight Test” by the Flaming Lips in a Disney movie? Or Joey Ramone covering “What A Wonderful World?”

Freaky Friday (2018): It’s wild that Steve Carr made Next Friday and a Freaky Friday sequel. And this time, I had no idea I was getting into a musical. Cozi Zuehlsdorff from the Dolphin Tale movies is Ellie Blake and her mother Katherine is played by Heidi Blickenstaff, who played the role on stage. Seriously, this is a full-blown bing singing musical and also a version of the story that leans in on Ellie being a total slob with a filthy room, a girl who always wears the same clothes every day and who would totally be the kind of arty disaffected young girl who I’d be too shy to talk to and leave mixtapes in her locker. Or maybe text her Spotify links now, I guess, right?

A magical hourglass — given to Ellie by her late father, a Freaky Friday story beat retained from the last few versions — is the storytelling device that switches the daughter and mother. There’s also a scavenger hunt that an entire school is absolutely obsessed by, making this also an updating of Midnight Madness.

This was the first Disney movie made from one of their stage plays and it didn’t get great ratings. It’s fine — obviously there are a ton of different versions of Freaky Friday for you to watch. I’d place it slightly ahead of the Shelley Long version, but way behind everything else.

Freaky (2020): By all rights, I should hate this movie, a semi-remake of Freaky Friday that instead subverts the source material by turning it into a slasher. But you know, it ended up hitting me the right way and I was behind it pretty much all the way.

Directed by Christopher Beau Landon — yes, the son of Michael — who wrote Disturbia — that’s not even a word — and several of the Paranormal Activitymovies before directing the Happy Death Day films. If you liked those, well, this will definitely give you more of what those movies offered, this is set in the same universe — Landon said that, “They definitely share the same DNA and there’s a good chance Millie and Tree will bump into each other someday” — and was originally titled Freaky Friday the 13th.

Millie Kessler (Kathryn Newton, Big Little Lies) is a teenager who has been tormented by bullies, both of the teenager and teacher* varieties. Meanwhile, the urban legend of the Blissfield Butcher continues, as he keeps killing her classmates. Now that he possesses a McGuffin called La Dola — an ancient Mayan sacrificial dagger — he looks to gain even more power. But when he runs into our heroine — her mother (Katie Finneran, who is great in this) has left her behind at a football game where all she gets to do is wear a beaver mascot costume — she battles the Butcher and when he stabs her, they end up switching bodies.

So yeah — this turns into a body swap comedy and you’d think, after the gory as hell open, this is where they lose you. But no — if anything, this gets way more fun.

Millie’s friends make for some of the best scenes in the film. Nyla (Celeste O’Connor) and Josh (Misha Osherovich) have been with her through the worst parts of high school, so having their best friend in the body of a killing machine is just another trial to be endured.

Speaking of that killer, Vince Vaughn shines in this. There’s plenty of silly physical comedy, but also some really nice scenes like when he admits to the love interest that she left the note he treasures (body swap pronouns are a little hard) or when he has a moment with her mother while hiding in a changing room.

Landon — who wrote the movie along with Michael Kennedy — said that the film was influenced by the Scream series, along with Cherry FallsFright NightJennifer’s BodyThe Blob and Urban Legend. There’s also a fair bit of Halloween in here, particularly the opening series of murders, and references to Heathers, Child’s Play, Creepshow, Galaxy Quest, Carrie, The Faculty, The Craft and Supernatural. There’s also a bottle down the throat kill that came directly from the 2009 slasher remake Sorority Row.

I had fun with this. Here’s hoping you do the same.

*The funny thing is that the teacher that is the worst to her is Alan Ruck, who knows a thing about bring bullied, what with playing Cameron in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

APRIL MOVIE THON DAY 29: Friday Foster (1975)

Not just a blaxploitation, not just a comic strip movie, not just a Pam Grier movie, this is also her last movie for AIP that ties in race identity, being a woman and, most essentially, Pam Grier kicking ass for 90 minutes.

Friday Foster comes from an American newspaper comic strip, created and written by Jim Lawrence — who wrote the James Bond strip — and illustrated by Jorge Longarón that ran from January 18, 1970, to February 17, 1974. She was one of the first African-American women characters to star in her own strip with only Jackie Ormes’ Torchy Brown coming before it (that strip ran in the Pittsburgh Courier, which makes me quite happy to know that my hometown sometimes does things ahead of the rest of the world). Friday started as an assistant to high-fashion photographer Shawn North, but soon became an international supermodel leaving her troubled life in Harlem behind her. Since her strip ended, Friday has shown up in Dick Tracy.

Foster (Grier) has witnessed an assassination attempt on the wealthiest African American, Blake Tarr (Thalmus Rasulala) and then her best friend Cloris Boston (Rosaline Miles) is murdered. Soon, not listening to her boss’ warning to stay out of her stories, she finds herself targeted for death.

Arthur Marks already had some comic strip experience, directing three episodes of the Steve Canyon TV series. He also directed Bonnie’s KidsDetroit 9000BucktownA Women for All MenJ.D.’s RevengeClass of ’74The Roommates and the “Find Loretta Lynn” episode of The Dukes of Hazzard. Writer Orville H. Hampton worked on everything from Rocketship X-M and Mesa of Lost Women to The Four Skulls of Jonathan DrakeJack the Giant Killer and episodes of FlipperPerry MasonSuper FriendsFantasy Island and The Dukes cartoon.

There are some great people in this, like Yaphet Kotto as private detective Colt Hawkins, Earth Kitt as fashion designer Madame Rena, Scatman Crothers, Godfrey Cambridge, Ted Lange and Jim Backus as a racist Senator. There’s even a scene with a young Carl Weathers as one of the bad guy’s goons.

The real joy of this film is the agency it affords Friday. She’s gorgeous, sure, but she can easily best any man. And when she beds more than one over the running time of the film, she’s never judged. Best of all, her blackness is central to who she is and not an afterthought.

Supposedly Marks was trying to turn this into a TV series. I wish that had happened because one Friday Foster adventure is nowhere near enough.

You can watch this on Tubi.

APRIL MOVIE THON DAY 29: The 13th Friday (2017)

Justin Price also directed The Mummy Rebirth, AbominableElvesWrong Place, Wrong Time and more, all direct to streaming or the shelves of WalMart films that you may not have noticed.

The movie starts with these words: “Somewhere in Texas is a house said to be so haunted that a church was built on the property and the family that lived on the house was never heard from again.”

Sounds good, right?

Then a puzzle globe shows up, plus monsters in a cave, plus a grim reaper-dressed villain and the idea that if the kids gathered in that very same Texas house years later — which looks totally clean with no dust at all — must sacrifice 13 people or they themselves will die.

That said, as much as this movie takes from every possession movie and tries to be a Hellraiser movie — a good idea, because a lot of movies that didn’t intend to be Hellraiser movies ended up being Hellraiser movies, so hey let’s try and be a Hellraiser movie and see what happens —   but man, that onepossessionn scene is really great looking and has some awesome effects. If that energy existed for the entire movie, I would have loved this.

There are two IMDB facts for this movie: “It’s been said that Justin Price is very difficult to work with” and “Deanna Grace Congo regrets doing the movie.” I’m willing to bet that Deanna Grace Congo supplied those facts. Then again, she’s been in multiple Price-directed projects after this.

You can watch this on Tubi.

April Movie Thon Day 29: The King of Friday Night (1985)

The Monarchs — like Eddie and the Cruisers and the Wonders before them — went from Nova Scotia obscurity to a Canadian chart-topping hit, until, as it usually does, it all fell apart. Unlike the Wonders, who never regrouped, and like Eddie and the Cruisers, who eventually did (sort of via the ‘ol Part Duex), the Monarchs reunite for a performance — as the story flashes back to their bygone days of troubled fame.

Hey, what did I know back then: Cannon has their logo on this video-taped spooler and that studio’s rock anthems for the retarded home video rental population: The Apple and Playing for Keeps (okay, the latter is Miramax, but you get the point) worked out okay. Well, not really. But really: this is worse. Way worse. And yes, Incident at Channel Q — which is padded with rock videos spun by a controversial VJ whose TV stations is under seige by the Christian Right — is better. For what’s it’s worth: let that be your critical barometer.

This Canadian television production made its way to U.S. home video shelves for unsuspecting rockers like this writer to rent. So, yeah. There goes another three bucks, wasted, that would have been better spent on a Ron Marchini flick (if only Arctic Warriors had been released to U.S. shores back then) or any Philippines war romp (Hey, did you enjoy our two-part “Philippine War Week” blow out)?

So, yeah. This won seven international awards — including The Banff TV Festival “Best Picture” award?

So, uh. Okay, then.

Courtesy of meps69/eBay. The Cannon U.S./U.K. version is preserved at videocollectoruk.

Well, maybe The King of Friday Night is better than my opinion dictates. “Critics’ opinions are divorced from those of the public,” so it has been said. Look, back in my youthful days of yore, “rock flicks,” for me, were analog horror slabs like Rocktober Blood and Blood Tracks and other “No False Metal” ditties that assured me that I was one Iron Maiden-spin away from eternal damnation (that any member of the public with a lick of common sense or quality, wouldn’t like).

Anyway, this “award winning” production is based on writer John Gray’s hit, Canuck stage play, Rock ‘n’ Roll, which tells the story of the real life, Truro, Nova Scotia, band, the Lincolns. Yes. They are a real band. Sadly, this filmed-stage play doesn’t do their career justice. Perhaps the stage play did. Maybe that theatre piece was a grand production like Broadway’s Jersey Boys*, you know, the one concerned with the career of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. While the Seasons made their Billboard chart bones with “Sherry” and “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” the Lincolns — well, the Monarchs, had theirs: “The King of Friday Night” topped the Canadian charts. (*Remember that Clint Eastwood brought us the artistically successful, but box office bombing, 2014 film adaptation of that 2005 Tony Award-winning Broadway musical. Maybe if the story of the Lincolns was under the eye of Clint or the group was given the dramatic-treatment of Telstar: The Joe Meek Story, we’d have a more engaging narrative.)

However, like Eddie and the Cruisers, there’s no memorable rockin’ rave-up like “On the Dark Side” (or the Wonders’ “That Thing You Do!”) to hold our interest: just lots of doo-wopin’ and finger snapping and synced dance steps that could be entertaining — but then there’s that pesky, odd special effects-film tinting to the ambitious shot-on-video proceedings that capture cardboard stage-production set dressing back drops. Yes. This wasn’t shot on location, but on television blue-screened sets mixed with theatrical backdrops.

It’s all very odd in a dreamy, French ’60s surrealist kind of way — only not as good as a French ’60s surrealist film, even though Canada’s roots are back in France.

The whole reason for this review — besides it having “Friday” in the title, is to expose you to a well-made, out-the-way You Tube rabbit hole discovery (back in November 2021) of award-winning author A. J. B. Johnston’s micro-documentary companion piece to his book, The Kings of Friday Night: The Lincolns.

You can learn more about the Lincolns with their entry at Nova Scotia Classic Rock. There’s more with these 2018 articles at Saltwire and CVT News. Sadly, according to this CBC News obituary, we lost the Lincolns’ founder, Frank Mackay, in 2019.

Hey, don’t go, yet!

I just remembered another ’80s rockin’ doo-wop’er made by the guy who made our October 2020 “Slasher Month” entry, Don’t Go in the House (1979), itself a “U.K. Section 2 Video Nasty” entry.

No. This is a true story from the days of incessant HBO replay: After riding the ’80s Slasher wave surfed by John Carpenter and Sean S. Cunningham with his own, twisted in version of Hitchcock’s Psycho, Manhattan writer-director Joseph Ellison, for his second — and what would be his final — effort, decided to reminisce his rock ‘n’ roll roots with Joey (1986): a tale about an ’80s rockin’ teen (per the soundtrack, he’s into Scandal, E.L.O, the Polecats, and the Ramones; there’s an Elvis Costello poster on the wall) at odds with his washed-up, ’50s rocker dad (per the soundtrack, “real music” is the Ad Libs, the Cleftones, the Coasters, the Devotions, the Duprees, the Elegants, the Limelights, and the Skyliners). They finally discover common ground when Joey, Jr. helps Joey, Sr. regroup his old band, Yesterday’s Today, for a retread of their big hit, “Moonlight Love,” which isn’t that bad of a faux-hit — but it’s still no “On the Dark Side” or “That Thing You Do” to wow you to doo-wop your sweet bippy into a 23 Skidoo.

So, if you have a doo-wop hankerin’, there’s your double feature: The King of Friday Night and Joey. Yes, Joey is the better movie, courtesy of solid performances by Neill Barry (from the awesome O.C and Stiggs) and James Quinn (who reminds of James Remar — and should have done more films) in the Jr. and Sr. roles. Hey, make it a triple: Martin Davidson, who directed Eddie and the Cruisers, returned the genre with Armand Assante as a washed-up doo-wop’er wallowing in the past in Looking for an Echo (2000).

There’s no rips of The King of Friday Night, but there’s a ten-part rip of Joey on You Tube.

As you can see from the banner, above, there’s more rock flicks to be had with our three-part “Rock ‘n’ Roll Week” series. And there’s more shot-on-video films to be discovered under our ’80s SOV tag.

— R.D Francis