Drive-In Friday: Drag Racing ’70s Docs Night

Don “The Snake” Prudhomme and Tom “The Mongoose” McEwen were gods to us kids in the ’70. We bought the racing magazines and ripped out the glossy spreads of their cars and persons and Scotch Taped ’em to our bedroom doors and walls — right next to our Runaways (duBeat-e-o) and Suzi Quatro (Suzi Q) posters, and Roger Decoster’s mag-rips of his daring motocross jumps.

When the ABC Wild World of Sports held one of Prudhomme and McEwen’s drag or funny car races on a Saturday afternoon, the neighborhood streets cleared and everyone sat in front of the TV. The Snake and Mongoose were matched only by Richard Petty and Evel Knievel. They were the “Muhammad Ali” of racing. Everyone loved them.

So, to commemorate those “Funny Car Summers” of those youthful days of yore, let’s fire up that silver screen under the stars!

Movie 1: Funny Car Summer (1973)

Watch the TV promo.

Man, when this commercial came on TV . . . EVERYBODY went to see this documentary that chronicles a summer in the life of “Funny Car” racer Jim Dunn and his family.

The most popular, best known, and best-distributed film of the night — it is also the most disappointing (to those wee eyes of long ago) of the films of the night. You know how great Pawn Stars and American Chopper were when they first went on the air — then they turned into a Kardashians-styled sit(shite)com that’s all about Chum Lee and Corey Harrison bumblin’ about the shop and Junior and Senior fighting? Where’s the neat junk? Where’s the bikes? Where’s Frank and Mike? Who in the hell let Danielle, this Memphis blond chick, and Mike’s bumblin’ brother on the set? Where did the pickin’ go? This is American Pickers, right?

Well, that’s what watching this movie is like: all family drama and little vroom-vroom. Way to go marketing department and Mr. Distributor. You broke our little-tyke hearts — and pissed off our parents, who paid the drive-in fare, because we bitched from the backseat that we were bored — and watched 99 and 44/100% Dead (or was it The Exorcist) through the rear window, instead.

You can watch Funny Car Summer on You Tube HERE and HERE.

Movie 2: Wheels on Fire (1973)

Courtesy of Letterboxd.

Wheels On Fire is a classic motor sports documentary — and also one of the most obscure and hard-to-find (as you can see, it’s even impossible to find a decent image of the theatrical one-sheet). But not in the land of Oz, since this was filmed in Liverpool, Sydney. This one kicks ass because of — before there were web-cam and fiber optics — has the first ever “race cam” strapped onto the drag car, which takes you behind the wheel at speeds above 300 kilometers (miles in the States) per hour.

Again, this one is near impossible to track down on VHS and DVD — and the DVDs are grey market VHS-rips. And there’s no trailer or clips . . . denied.

Intermission! The Snack Bar is Open! Check out our classic drag racing poster art gallery while you wait in line!

Poster Top: All courtesy of Garage Art Signs. Bottom/From Left: Courtesy of American Hertiage USA, Garage Art Signs, Landis Publication Etsy, Repo Racing Posters

Movie 3: Wheels of Fire (1972)

Watch the trailer. (We hope it is still there!)

Not to be confused (and it is) with the “on” movie above, Wheels of Fire focuses on the lives of five major drag racers of the era: Don Garlits, Don Prudhomme, Shirley Muldowney, Richard Tharp and Billy Meyer, as they are each followed through a complete drag racing season. Yep. This is reality TV before Robert Kardashian had his first kid (I think; too lazy to check K-Dash B-Days), the very same kids who unleashed the ubiquitously-hated broadcasting format.

As with the oft-confused Wheels on Fire, there’s no online streams of this lost, classic drag racing film. It was on You Tube in several parts, but was removed. Only this 10:00 minute clip is available, which we’re posting in lieu of an official trailer (. . . and don’t be surprised if it also vanishes to grey screen; yep, it’s gone). The now out-of-print DVDs are available in the online marketplace from time to time (and, as you can see, it’s impossible to find a decent theatrical one-sheet). The NHRA web platform and their upper-tier cable channel rerun it from time to time.

Movie 4: Seven-Second Love Affair (1965)

Watch the trailer.

Documentarian Les Blank of Burden of Dreams fame, which chronicled the making of Werner Herzog’s and Klaus Kinski’s Fitzcarraldo, made his docu-debut with this drag chronicle — its seeds (A Rubber Tree plant, ha-ha! ugh.) planted courtesy of his first behind-the-camera gig shooting drag racers in Long Beach, California.

This one has it all: Souped-up “Blower” Mercurys and Chevys (like in Two-Lane Blacktop), rails, and funny cars. While it chronicles other racers, this one is a showcase for Rick “The Iceman” Stewart as he attempts to grab the world’s record — as Los Angeles’ Canned Heat Blues Band provides the musical backing.

Les Blank has made this easily accessible as an Amazon Prime and Vimeo VOD that’s also available for purchase at Les and on eBay.

And so goes our “Fast and Furious Week: Part Deux.” Can you smell the rubber Big Daddy is cookin’, Dwayne? And, do you have a hankering for even MORE drag racing films? Then check out our first “Fast and Furious Week” reviews of Burnout and Fast Company.

Poster by Dennis Preston for “The Great Bed Race” in Lansing, Michigan on August 11, 1979/courtesy of Splatt Gallery Facebook.

Update: In May 2021, we went drag racing crazy and reviewed several more drag flicks as part of our “Drag Racing Week” theme-feature of the month. Image Courtesy of Vectezzy.

Another drag racing doc? You bet. During out two month “Cannon Month” blow out in July and August 2022, we discovered this Cannon-distributed ditty. Who knew?

In August and December of 2020, we had two “Fast and Furious” tribute weeks filled with the aromas of burning rubber and bubbling oil.

Mill Creek’s “Savage Cinema” 12-pack got us started as we reviewed over 40 films in August 2020.

Yeah, we did another week with another 40-plus films.

You say you need more racing films? You mean we haven’t covered enough? Well, then head on over to Demaras Racing under their “Fast Films” section for their reviews on car flicks. From Mickey Rooney in The Big Wheel to a discussion of Dustin Hoffman’s ride in The Graduate to the cars in THX 1138 — so many that we missed or never got around to reviewing — they’ve got you covered.

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

Drive-In Friday: Elvis Racing Nite!

Hopefully you joined us — and enjoyed — our “Fast and Furious Week” tribute during the first week of August as we honored the Universal franchise, along with its ripoffs and knockoffs, and the obscure and off-beat, rubber-burning drive-in epics from the ’50s through the ’80s that influenced the those films.

And guess what?

That 40-plus film blowout still wasn’t enough . . . as one car flick skidded into another, then another . . . and before we knew it, we had another 40-plus reviews. So, to get you ready for our second “Fast and Furious Week Redux” to run from Sunday, December 6, to Saturday, December 12, we’re rollin’ out Elvis’s car racing trilogy.

Facts are facts: Elvis flicks served us heaping helpings of cheesy camp starring “The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll” in a wide array of professions. He was a convict, a boxer, a cowboy, a riverboat captain, a helicopter pilot, and a cowboy — who always found the time to sway his hips and sing his latest hits for a bevy of skintight, carpi-panted ladies. And road racing, be it stock cars, Grand Prix or road rally racers, was a hot sport in the ’60s. So why not place Elvis in a flame retardant suit, strap on a helmet, and slip him into a cockpit?

Viva Las Vegas (1964)

The best and most popular of Elvis’s race excursions was his role as Lucky Jackson. He’s a down-and-out waiter and aspiring racer who dreams, schemes, and parties with Rusty Martin (Ann-Margret) as he gathers up the cash to buy a new engine for his cherished Elva Mk VI Maserati so he can enter the First Annual Las Vegas Grand Prix. His man competition is mean ol’ Count Elmo Mancini and his Ferrari 250 GT. And Yep. That’s good ‘ol Uncle Charlie (William Demarest) from the iconic ’60s TV series My Three Sons as Ann’s pop.

And get this: the music and dance scenes were choreographed by David Winters . . . yes, the very same David Winters who gave us — wow, it’s not even a Star Wars dropping — the Battlestar Galatica pile that is 1988’s Space Mutiny.

Only on B&S About Movies, baby.

Spinout (1966)

Poor Elvis. Col. Tom Parker never let The King rest. But in Col. Tom’s defense: he was a master at keeping Elvis in the spotlight while he was overseas serving in the military. After Viva Las Vegas, we got seven more films within a two year period: Kissin’ Cousins, Roustabout, Girl Happy, Tickle Me, Harum Scarum, Frankie and Johnny, and Paradise, Hawaiian Style.

This time out, El is Mike McCoy, a band leader moonlighting as a race car driver who must decide between breaking up with Cynthia Foxhugh (Shelley Fabares) or lose her father’s sponsorship for the big race. This time, El’s trades out his Elva Mk VI for a Cobra 427. And keep your eyes peeled for the eye pleasing ski n’ snow bunnies that are Diane McBain — who’s determined to steal Mike from Cindy — and crushed on by his band’s female drummer, played Deborah Walley.

Speedway (1968)

MGM went all out for El’s third and final race flick, casting NASCAR stars Richard Petty, Buddy Baker, Tiny Lund, and Cale Yarbrough in cameos — to help us forget we’re watching a film comprised of stock footage with El process-shot onto the race track. This time out, El is Steve Grayson, a stock racer who only has eyes for IRS Agent Susan Jacks (Nancy Sinatra) and sees his career going up in smoke thanks to bad bookkeeping courtesy of his manager’s gambling addiction. And keep your eyes open for Bill Bixby and ’60s drive-in warhorse Ross Hagan in support roles.

“We gotta win this race, Elvis!”

We’ll see you bright and early, 9 AM, on Monday, December 6th as we roll out a week of over 40 more road rippin’ and rubber burnin’ flicks, as well as a “Drive-In Friday” tribute to Drag Racing documentaries, as part of our “Fast and Furious Week” round up of reviews.

Flicks not starring Elvis . . . but about Elvis.

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

Drive-In Friday: Dennis Devine Night

We’ve already taken a look at Double D’s best-promoted and best-known film — via the back of pulpy, ’80s monster mags — Dead Girls, and his latest, 30th film, Camp Blood 8 — each part of our respective “Rock ‘n’ Roll Week II” and October “All Slasher Month” tributes. And, the best part: Dennis is a D-Town brother: he was born and raised in Detroit and graduated from Eastern Michigan University before heading to Los Angeles, graduating from Loyola Marymount University’s film school, and forming DJD Productions.

So, for this Drive-In Friday, lets load the projector with four more of Dennis Devine films. And not all of them are the horror films you expect them to be.

Movie 1: Fatal Images (1989)

Next to Dear Girls, this debut feature — produced for $10,000 and shot-on-Beta with Dead Girls’ Steve Jarvis — is my favorite of the Devine canons and the Cinematrix imprint.

Starring Kay Schaber, Angela Eads, and Brian Chin from the later Dead Girls, they’re three of several people victimized by a Satanist-worshipping photographer-cum-serial killer who — instead of sealing his body in a doll, ala Chucky in Child’s Play (1988; 2019), Devine’s writing cohort, Mike Bowler (Hell Spa, Things, Things II, Club Dead, Amazon Warrior, Chain of Souls, Haunted), who spins an inventive change-up to the spiritual hocus pocus — commits suicide before the police can catch him, and seals his body inside a camera.

Years later, Amy Stuart (Lane Coyle who, in typical Devine fashion, never appeared in another film), an aspiring photographer who works for the town’s newspaper, purchases the vintage camera from a pawn shop staffed with a creepy, ulterior motive shopkeep — and everyone she photographs is tracked down and murdered by the killer’s spirit.

What helps this along is the effects that come courtesy of the iconic Gabe Bartalos, who worked on Dead Girls, as well as Frankenhooker, Spookies, Brain Damage, and the Fright Night, Basket Case, Leprechaun, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Gremlins and Watchers series. And don’t forget: Gabe’s in the directing business with Skinned Deep (2004) and Saint Bernard (2013).

You can watch Fatal Images as a free stream on You Tube. Do you need a more expansive, second look? Then check out Sam’s review of Fatal Images. It’s true! We love this film and Mr. Devine.

Movie 2: Things (1993)

“A horrific and sexy romp in the dark.”
— Joe Bob Briggs

Now, if that tag from the guru of Drive-In fodder on the VHS “big-box” doesn’t make you want to mail order this third effort from Dennis Devine, then nothing will. And yes . . . multiple titles alert . . . here are two movies carrying the “Things” title: the first is the infamous Canuxploitation-North of the Border Horror, Things (1989). And the three sequels from 1998 and 2017 to Devine’s film have nothing to do with the Canux one — or with each other — for that matter.

This “Things” is an anthology-portmanteau film in three parts: “The Box” directed and written by Devine,” “Thing in a Jar” written by Steve Jarvis and directed by Jay Woelfel, and the wrap-around/linking segment written by Mike Bowler and directed by Eugene James. All are film school friends and DJD cohorts, natch.

The segments come together as a woman kidnaps her husband’s mistress and tells the mistress two horror stories involving “evil things” — that’s all converged in a related, twist ending. And unlike the classic Amicus and Hammer omnibus flicks it homages, Things dispenses with the atmospheric-gothic angle of its Brit forefathers and goes straight for — the bountiful — guts n’ gore. The first tale concerns hookers who meet their fate to a cursed creature kept in a box; the second is about a woman haunted by is-it-real-or-nightmares “things” concerning her abusive husband.

You can watch Things on TubiTV. There’s no online copies of 2 or 3 (aka Deadly Tales, aka, Old Things) currently streaming online, but you can watch Things 4 on TubiTV. And again, DO NOT confuse this with the “North of the Border Horror” Things from 1989 . . . as that is a whole other “thing” to watch.

Uh, oh. As we rolled out another “SOV Week,” well, two, during the last two weeks of January 2023, we reviewed Dennis’s sequel, Things II.

INTERMISSION: Short Film Time!

The Things about Things Sidebar: Battlestar Galactica fans know Jay Woelfel as the director of Richard Hatch’s failed 1999 BSG theatrical reboot with the short “pitch film” Battlestar Galactica: The Second Coming that Universal rejected in lieu of the eventual SyFy Channel series. You can watch Hatch and Woelfel’s vision on You Tube. As you’ll see the, concept of “evolved Cylons” and the new Raiders design for the series was pinched from this version — and the most popular characters and actors returned. Woelfel is still at it: he recently edited Art of the Dead (2019). We also reviewed his debut effort, Beyond Death’s Door, as part of our “Regional Horror Week.”

And back to the show . . .

Movie 3: Curse of Pirate Death (2006)

It’s more goofy, ne’er-do-well college kids of the Scooby Doo variety heading off — not into the Norwegian Slasher Wood (as in Camp Blood 8) — but the ocean, Pirate’s Point in particular, as they research the myth of a centuries old killer, Abraham LeVoy, aka Pirate Death. And if they find his legendary treasure along the way, all the better for Shaggy and the Mystery Machine gang.

You’ve got — even though some are cut-a-ways or off-camera (ugh, damn budget) — a high kill count and lots of zombie-ghost pirate fighting that reminds of the great Amando de Ossorio’s third entry in his “Blind Dead” series, The Ghost Galleon (1974; the one with the living corpses of the Satan-worshiping Knights Templar hunting for human victims trapped on a 16th century galleon), but it’s definitely not as good as a de Ossorio flick (and what film is). Yeah, this one’s suffering from its ultra-low-budget that lends to sketchy cinematography and strained acting in places, but this has the usual Devine heart n’ soul with a mix of dark humor and horror that lends to its fun, snappy pace. Bottom line: If you want to see porn-provocateur Ron Jeremy (Boondock Saints/Overnight; also of Devine’s Night of the Dead from 2012) get a (cut-a-way) sword in the gut, this is your movie. If you want to see girls dressed as a sexy cop and German Beer Wench (Get that Bud Light chick outta ‘ere, I want a St. Pauli Girl!) stranded on an island dispatched by a dead pirate with guacamole smeared on his face, this is you movie.

One of the few Devine movies available through the service, you can rental-stream Curse of Pirate Death for a $1.99 on Amazon Prime. The DVD has a director-actor commentary track, along with a making of, gag reel, and meet the cast vignettes. The Amazon Prime stream offers a clip sample and You Tube offers a trailer via the film’s distributor, Brain Damage Films.

Movie 4: Get the Girl (2009)

Dennis Devine makes the jump from the pulpy lands of back-of-a-monster magazine-mail order SOVs to the streaming world of Netflix in this pretty obvious Judd Apatow-influencer. It concerns a geek (Adam Salandra of Devine’s Don’t Look in the Cellar) who masters Guitar Master (aka a chintzy Guitar Hero knock-off) to impress a sexy-brainless co-worker, much to the chagrin of his dowdy, co-worker gal pal. Guess which girl he gets. (Yeah, I’d want to “get the girl” with the ponytail and eye glasses, too.)

You can watch Get the Girl as a free-with-ads stream on TubiTV. Other films in the Devine comedy canons include Kid Racer (2010; yep, go-carts), Dewitt & Maria (2010; a rom-com), Fat Planet (2013; aliens into food), and Baker & Dunn (2017; that also works as mystery thriller).

For you Devineites (Or is that Devineheads?) check out his TubiTV page to watch the horrors Don’t Look in the Cellar (2008), The Haunting of La Llorona (2019), and the comedy Fat Planet (2013).

We wanted to do Devine’s Vampires of Sorority Row (1999), Vampires on Sorority Row II (2000), and his campy-vamp comedy Vamps in the City (2010) for our recent “Vampire Week,” but were unable to locate online streaming copies for you to enjoy — free or otherwise. The same goes for the Reggie “Phantasm” Bannister-starring Sawblade (2010) for our “Rock ‘n’ Roll Week II,” about an extreme-metal band a trapped-in-a-haunted house-for-a-video shoot tale (i.e., Blood Tracks and Monster Dog).

You need more Dennis Devine? Check out this Spotify podcast (that streams on all apps, and browser PCs and Laps) courtesy of Inside Movies Galore in promotion of Devine’s latest film, Camp Blood 8. You can also catch the podcast on streaming provider, Anchor.

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 publishes on Medium.

Drive-In Friday: Tibor Takács Night

Primarily known as a talent manager, studio producer and engineer, Hungarian born director Tibor Takács worked behind the boards for the Canadian bands the Viletones and the Cardboard Brains before he became a director. His first feature film project was the self-produced Metal Messiah (1978), a long-form rock opera/video which starred two bands from his stable: Kickback and the Cardboard Brains.

Best known for the internationally-distributed “No False Metal” classic, The Gate (1987), he made his feature film debut with the 1978-shot-and-1982 released CBC-TV movie 984: Prisoner of the Future, which has long since fallen into the public domain and is easily found on a wide variety of bargin-basement sci-fi DVD sets. After the cult VHS and cable status of The Gate, he was poised to direct A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, but passed on the project . . . and he gave us The Gate 2: The Trespassers and the pilot movie for the original Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

These days, he’s churning out the mockbuster hoards of Ice Spiders, Mega Snake, and Destruction: Los Angeles, as well as other films concerning all manner of meteors, tornadoes, mosquitoes, black holes, and rats for the SyFy Channel . . . and he got into the Hallmark Christmas movie business alongside our equally beloved Fred Olen Ray and David DeCoteau.

Oh, and Hallmark romance flicks.

Did Sam and I watch The Secret Ingredient for its February 2020 premiere — making our significant others cringe in the process — as we chomped on our popcorn and gulped our A&W Root Beers with glee? Damn right, we did. And you know how B&S About Movies is about our Christmas movies . . . so yes, we did binge the Takacs X-Mas oeuvre of Once Upon A Christmas (2000), Twice Upon a Christmas (2001), Rocky Mountain Christmas (2017), It’s Christmas, Eve (2018), Memories of Christmas (2018), and A Christmas Miracle (2019). And when Tibor finishes off his currently-in-production Lifetime damsel-in-distress thriller Roadkill — his 48th directing effort — we’ll watch that one, as well.

But what we really want to know: Tibor, when in the hell are you and Eric Roberts going to do a movie together? It’s de rigueur for guys like you, Olen Ray, and DeCoteau. Make it happen, Tibor! Remember when you wrote and directed Redline, aka Deathline, that bionic-man-out-for-revenge actioner back in 1997 with Rutger Hauer and Mark Dacascos? Or Bad Blood, aka Viper, from 1994 with Lorenzo Lamas as a bad-ass trucker taking down the mob? Something like those flicks . . . just cut Eric Roberts loose to kick mercenary and mobster ass as an “aging action hero” thespin’ his little heart out . . . as a rogue C.I.A black-ops agent, like Mack Dacascos in 1998’s Sanctuary. Make it happen, buddy!

Movie 1: The Gate (1987)

Come on, you know this movie, ye wee metal pup.

This is — non-CGI, mind you — a tale of an album known as The Dark Book by Sacrifyx — a band who died in a horrific accident after its recording — that serves as “the key” to opening a gate to hell . . . that just so happened to be under the roots of a lightning-stuck tree in the backyard of future Blu Cigs spokesman Stephen Dorff (he was 12 at the time).

How loved is this movie? You can buy Sacrifyx “The Dark Book” T-shirts on esty. Fans have compiled “Top 10” lists about the film. Sacrifyx is noted as one of the best “fake bands” on film. And . . .

There’s a (baffling, but awesome) Sacrifyx website, and . . .

An equally eerie album by a band called Sacrifyx listed on Discogs that recorded an album at Dunwich Analog Studios in Detroit, Michigan, in 1983 — with a song “The Gate.” But wait, the movie didn’t come out until 1987? Shivers. And guess what . . . the album is real. It’s on You Tube.

Which Old God is F’in with us, here? Love this movie, ye must!

Movie 2: The Gate II: Trespassers (1990)

Dude . . . imagine a Tibor-made Freddy Krueger movie? How awesome could that have been? Instead, we got a sequel to The Gate — both written by Michael Nankin, who made his debut with the David Naughton-starring (yes, the Dr. Pepper “Making It” Meatballs werewolf in London guy), Animal House-rip Midnight Madness in 1980.

The upside to this movie: Terry shoots and scores! He bags a babe. So, you see, it pays to worship Satan and dabble in the black arts. Do it! Chant Natas three times and the babes will come crawlin’ out the ground for ya!

Is The Gate II as good as the original? Nope. But it’s a lot of fun with great non-CGI effects, once again, from Randall William Cook, who also handles the SFX for the next feature on this evening’s program.

Intermission! Spin the dark circle, if you dare . . .

Back to the Show!

Movie 3: I, Madman (1989)

Long before meta-fiction became shot-on-iPhone de rigueur for the digital auteur crowd (For Jennifer), Julio Cortázar wrote a short story — La Continuidad de Los Parques (The Continuity of the Parks) — a tale that is three stories; each aware of one another in a universe where fiction collides with meta-fiction.

The much-missed Jenny Wright of Near Dark fame (I recall reading her interview in Shock Cinema Issues #45 that went into detail about the abuses she suffered and caused her exit from the business) is Virginia, a bookish girl obsessed with writer Malcolm Brand’s I, Madman. In the pages of that tale, the deformed Dr. Kessler attempts to win over an actress by killing people and adding their faces to his own. And she comes face to face, literally, with Dr. Kessler as he’s entered the real world.

Should this follow up to The Gate be as revered and remembered as The Gate. Yes. Is it? No. Love this movie, you must. It’s awesomeness and a bag ‘o garlic fingers.

P.S. You need more “film within a film” tomfoolery? Check out Anguish (1987).

Movie 4: 984: Prisoner of the Future (1982)

Tibor’s first commercial film project was this failed Canadian TV series pilot programmer in 1978. Courtesy of the Star Wars-infused sci-fi market, it was shook loose from the analog dustbins onto home video shelves in 1982.

Also circulating on DVD bargain comps as The Tomorrow Man, it’s a surreal psychological drama concerned with the imprisonment of an intelligence agent in an Orwellian future. Don’t let the Dr. Who-esque TV production designs deter you from watching this well-written and acted sci-fi’er — a commendable start to the awesome career of Tibor Takács. We found a trailer upload on You Tube.

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 publishes on Medium.

Drive-In Friday: Harry “Tampa” Hurwitz Night!

A toast! Let’s raise those waxed cups n’ strawed A&W Root Beers to Harry “Tampa” Hurwitz and his return to the big screen with Robert De Niro starring in the remake of Harry’s 1982 feature, The Comeback Trail.

Prior to his tenure as a screenwriter, director and producer, the New York born and raised Hurwitz worked as a professor of film and drawing at several New York institutions, including a prestigious tenure at New York University.

That’s what I get for hiring a high school kid to do the sign. Eh, you get what you $5.00-buck-an-hour pay for, right? Know your “rose” suffixes, kid.

He made his debut as a filmmaker with 1970’s critically-acclaimed The Projectionist — a film noted as the acting debut for a then unknown comedian named Rodney Dangerfield — in a tale about a lonely projectionist (Chuck McCann) who imagines himself in the films he shows. Hurwitz also translated his life-long love of Charlie Chaplin in the 1972 sophomore effort, The Eternal Tramp.

While his films would see distribution with major studios, such as MGM/United Artists (Safari 3000), and major-independents, such as Almi Pictures, a division of Carolco (The Rosebud Beach Hotel), and Compass International (Nocturna), Hurwitz produced and directed 12 pictures, 9 of which he wrote, independently.

His resume features two films produced with a pre-Empire Studios Charles Band: the late ’70s sexploitation pieces Fairy Tales and Auditions. Hurwitz also wrote and directed 1972’s Richard, a social parody on President Richard M. Nixon. He re-teamed with his lifelong friend Chuck McCann in 1982’s The Comeback Trail, a somewhat semi-autobiographical tale about two independent film executives against-the-odds in producing a western with a washed-up cowboy star.

“Rose” BLANK
And the $50 response is . . . “Is a Rose”
The $150 response is . . . “Wood”
And the $500 response . . . “Bud”

What the hell? Napoleon Solo? Well, it was either Match Game . . . or do a film with Harry. Oh, shite . . . say it ain’t so, Solo! The “comeback trail” isn’t paved with Harry Hurwitz films, Mr. Vaughn. Just ask Christopher Lee. . . .

Repeating the semi-documentary cinéma vérité style of 1978’s Auditions, Hurwitz also concocted 1989’s That’s Adequate; a Spinal Tapish tale about a troubled film studio that features an eclectic cast of comedians with Sinbad, Richard Lewis, and Rick Overton alongside a starbound Bruce Willis, Maureen “Marsha Brady” McCormick as a Space Princess, Robert Vaughn as Adolf Hitler (which is “funny” to fringe movie fans, when we remember Vaughn starred in 1978’s The Lucifer Complex), Susan “Laurie Partridge” Dey as a Southern Belle, and Robert Downey, Jr. as Albert Einstein. (Seriously: the film is that crazy.)

Harry’s most significant screen credit was working as one of the five screenwriters on a tale about the 1939 production of The Wizard of Oz, the 1981 Chevy Chase-starring Under the Rainbow for Warner Bros.-Orion Pictures. And we can’t forget Harry dipping his toes in the Blaxploitation pool as a producer with 1983’s The Big Score starring Richard Roundtree and the late John Saxon*.

Harry “Tampa” Hurwitz passed away on September 21, 1995, at the young age of 57 from heart failure while awaiting a heart transplant at the U.C.L.A Medical Center. This Drive-In Friday is for you, Harry. May your films live on for a new generation of video fringe enthusiasts. And they do!

In the ultimate show of respect to Harry’s imagination, on November 13, 2020**, the remake of The Comeback Trail, starring the Oscar acting elite of Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, and Tommy Lee Jones, was realized by writer-director George Gallo of Bad Boys fame.

Way to go, Harry!

Now, Mr. Gallo . . . about that Safari 3000 remake. . . .

Movie 1: Nocturna, Granddaughter of Dracula (1979)

What do you get when you go into business with a noted Las Vegas belly dancer who appeared on TV’s The Beverly Hillbillies . . . then cast Lily Munster, a B-Movie Dracula, and a couple of on-their-way-down ’70s disco stars — and negotiate a deal with MCA Records to release a disco-flavored soundtrack double album to promote the movie?

You get a Harry Tampa box-office boondoggle with John Carradine making back dick jokes. Can Countess Dracula turn her gay singer crush, straight? Do we care?

And to think the Compass International — a studio that had a worldwide hit on their hands with their debut release, John Carpenter’s Halloween — backed this vampire hookers romp. But they also made Roller Boogie, Tourist Trap, Blood Beach, and Hell Night . . . so you know where this disco Dracula romp is heading. Flushing is required.

Movie 2: Safari 3000 (1980)

What do you get when you go into business with United Artists and convince them a Smokey and the Bandit ripoff set on the African tundra will work?

You get a Harry Tampa box-office boondoggle with Christopher Lee frolicking with baboons and the guy who voiced the CP3O knockoff in Luigi Cozzi’s Starcrash. Does the fact that David Carradine is behind the wheel giving us some serious Death Race 2000 and Cannonball vibes save this VHS flotsam? No. And we wished ol’ Dave got off a couple of his dad’s bad dick jokes from Nocturna to compensate for the fact that Stockard Channing’s comedic timing makes the monkeys look good.

With the stars of our next feature on tonight’s program!
Let the tight pants and smoke wash over you!

Back to the Show!

Movie 3: The Rosebud Beach Hotel (1984)

What do you get when you contractually flim-flam cinema’s requisite Count, an ex-Runaway, a B-Movie apoc anti-hero, a washed up Tom Hanks TV sidekick, and wardrobe left overs from Glen Larson’s crap-ass Buck Rogers remake for TV?

You get a Harry Tampa ripoff of Bob Clark’s Porky‘s set in a South Beach Miami hotel. Do the adult film actresses working as topless bell hops for Madam Bobbi Flekman from Spinal Tap’s management team seducing Paco Querak from Hands of Steel save it? Do the cut-rate AOR-synth soundtrack ditties from Cherie Currie save it? No. And we wished Christopher Lee stuck to his original plan of torching the joint for the insurance money.

Movie 4: Fleshtone (1994)

What do you get when Harry Tampa answers paid cable’s call for “after hours” erotic thriller programming fodder for the wee-lads who can’t get dates on Saturday nights?

You get the bassist from the bane of our New Wave existence — Spandau Ballet — as a struggling painter twisting down a soft-core film noir spiral in this final, bitter sweet Harry “Tampa” Hurwitz’s effort completed a year before his death.

Truth be told, Martin Kemp, who been in the acting game in the U.K. since the ’70s before finding fame as a MTV favorite, is pretty decent here (he was in Sugar Town with John Doe and Michael Des Barres) as the noir schlub who can’t stay away from dangerous women who enjoy erotic sex games. And it’s nice to see Tim Thomerson (yep, the one and only Jack Deth from Trancers) on top of the marquee in this who-killed-her potboiler.

Do the adult film actresses that Harry likes to cast for that extra titillation-inspiration and lesbian sex scenes helping? Does the fact that the singularly-named Daniella also starred in Anal Maidens 3 and Assy 2 exciting you? How about those exotic Jo-Berg, South Africa locations?

Eh, a little . . . but in reality, this is probably the best of Harry’s films, courtesy of Kemp and Thomerson giving the material some class, and ’80s U.S. TV actress Lise Cutter isn’t so bad, but she’s not leaving the direct-to-video realms any time soon.

Yes! You Tube comes through in the clutch! You can enjoy Harry’s final film on You Tube. You can watch the other films on tonight’s program via the links in those reviews.

* We honored the career of the late John Saxon with our “Exploring: John Saxon” featurette.

** The Comeback Trail premiered at the 43rd Mill Valley Film Festival on October 12, 2020. It was initially scheduled to be theatrically released in the United States on November 13, 2020. However, due to the affects of COVID on theaters, Cloudburst Entertainment has pushed the release date to sometime in 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 and publishes on Medium.

Drive-In Friday: Phil Savath Night

From Terminal City Ricochet with Jello Biafra to Beverly Hills, 90210 with Luke Perry? From the science fiction/horror musical Big Meat Eater featuring the soft-shoe of “Baghdad Boogie” to the historical drama Samuel Lount? Drag racing through the eyes of David Cronenberg? Children’s programming?

Welcome to the eclectic career of Phil Savath.

Phil Savath, born December 28, 1946, was an American-born Canadian film and television writer and producer. He was most noted as a two-time Genie Award nominee for Best Screenplay, with nominations for Original Screenplay at the 4th Genie Awards in 1983 for Big Meat Eater and Adapted Screenplay at the 10th Genie Awards in 1989 for The Outside Chance of Maximilian Glick. (The Genies are the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television’s equivalent of the Oscars.)

Savath started his career in television in the late ‘70s as the co-creator and star of the CBC Television children’s comedy series Homemade TV and Range Ryder and the Calgary Kid, and then made his theatrical debut with David Cronenberg’s Fast Company.

Fans of FOX-TV’s Beverly Hills, 90210 know him for the dozen episodes he wrote for that post-Brat Back series, as well as the oft-aired HBO favorite, The Outside Chance of Maximilian Glick, which was turned into a short-lived TV series, Max Glick. He also wrote the Canadian hockey drama Net Worth (1995) and developed the Canadian TV series African Skies (1992) about a bi-racial teen friendship in post-Apartheid South Africa. As a producer, before his death in 2004, he produced the late ‘90s series These Arms of Mine, along with the TV Movies White Lies, Little Criminals, and Liar, Liar: Between Father and Daughter.

Movie 1: Fast Company (1979)

The influence of this Phil Savath-penned script on the career of David Cronenberg can’t be denied.

The first of Cronenberg’s feature films for which Cronenberg did not originate the screenplay, he was hired by the producers to direct. It was on Fast Company that Cronenberg developed long-time working relationships with cinematographer Mark Irwin, art director Carol Spier, sound editor Bryan Day, and film editor Ronald Sanders — each worked on Cronenberg’s later films. Actor Nicholas Campbell, who plays William Smith’s young protégé, also went on to appear in Cronenberg’s The Brood, The Dead Zone, and Naked Lunch. Sadly, Fast Company also serves as final release for Claudia Jennings (‘Gator Bait), who died in a car wreck several months after this drag racing drama’s release.

Movie 2: Big Meat Eater (1982)

Take one part Ed Wood’s Plan Nine from Outer Space, one part Paul Bartel’s Eating Raoul, and one part Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show and vigorously shake in your “intentionally bad cult films” tumbler, and serve: We’ve got a mad butcher, a murdered mayor, and aliens who reanimate the mayor to assist in the harvesting of a rare, radioactive fuel deposit beneath the butcher shop. Oh, and there’s song and dance numbers (which you can enjoy during our intermission).

And those Great White Northeners “got it,” since Phil Savath and his co-writers Laurence Keane and Chris Windsor received Canada’s Oscar equivalent — a Genie Awards’ nod — for Best Original Screenplay in 1983. While Windsor never made another film, Keane and Savath continued onward and upward . . . and what could Phil possibly write as a follow-up feature? It’s not what you’d think.

Courtesy of the Phil Savath-penned “Baghdad Boogie.”

Back to the show!

Movie 3: Samuel Lount (1985)

The man who gave us Big Meat Eater . . . wrote this? He did.

A historical drama set during the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837, the film stars very familiar Canadian TV and film character actor R. H. Thomson (I remember him from the cable-played Escape from Iran: The Canadian Caper and The Terry Fox Story, as well as lots of American TV series) as Samuel Lount, an organizer of the rebellion who was ultimately convicted of treason and executed in 1838.

Receiving a limited theatrical run before debuting on Canadian television, it made its U.S debut on HBO and Showtime. While not winning any awards, it received five 7th Genie Awards’ nods for Best Actor, Best Cinematography, Best Costuming, Best Editing, and Best Sound Editing.

Yes, this powerful, fact-based drama is — in fact — from the pen of the man who gave us a film backed by a soundtrack performed by Alternative Tentancles bands. Yes, that’s right. Phil Savath worked with Jello Biafra. But Phil wrote “Baghdad Boogie” and incorporated “Heat Seeking Missile,” a song that would give Spinal Tap pause, into a movie — so what’s really shocking you at this point?

Movie 4: Terminal City Ricochet (1990)

So, Phil did a pretty good job with the sci-fi horror parody Big Meat Eater, so he took a crack at parodying the post-apoc sci-fi craze of the ’80s with this dystopian-political intrique romp. It’s the story of a media entrepreneur who weasels his way into the mayorship of Terminal City and manipulates the populace through television, with their ensuing addictions to consumerism lining his pockets.

Oh, and the good mayor’s Chief Social Peace Enforcement Officer? Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys.

Yeah, it’s a must watch.

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

Drive-In Friday: ’80s Teen Sex Comedy Night

As Robert Freese pointed out in his “Exploring: 80s Comedies” featurette for B&S About Movies, Bob Clark’s Porky’s opened up a cottage industry of teen sex comedies. And boy, did producers scrape the grease pits . . . where’s Pee Wee, Kim Cattral, and Kaki Hunter when you need ’em? Robert Hays! Leslie Nielsen! Where are you, bros?

Movie 1: Fast Food (1989)

You a-lookin’ for a-finger lickin’ good burger joint (that’s not) down the road from Faber College . . . one that’s staffed by Melanie Griffith’s half-sister Tracy Griffith (Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland) going up against evil burgermeister Jim Varney (yes, Ernest P. Worrell of the “Goes To” movies), along with Kevin McCarthy from Invasion of the Body Snatchers . . . and Michael J. Pollard (Memorial Valley Massacre) . . . and Traci Lords (Shock ‘Em Dead) as an industrial spy?


How about a movie with lame jokes about “date rape drugs” in the special sauce and labs where men suffer from non-stop erections?

No wonder this ended up being the last film by ex-’80s TV teen idol Clark Brandon (My Tutor, TV’s The Fitzpatricks, Out of the Blue, Mr. Merlin, The Facts of Life). And why am I the only one who remembers watching 1977’s The Chicken Chronicles on HBO in the ’80s with Clark mixing it up with Steve Guttenberg and Phil Silvers?

Yeah, it’s as bad as American Drive-In and Hard Rock Zombies, which were both shot back-to-back by Krishna Shah. So thanks for the heads up, Blue Laser Studios. And thank you, You Tubers for uploading it HERE and HERE to enjoy. Eat ’em and smile!

Movie 2: Stewardess School (1986)

You a-lookin’ for a ripoff of Airplane! starring Donnie “Ralph Malph” Most in a comedy that plays an airline crash in downtown Los Angeles for comedy? How about a ripoff of Police Academy set in a stewardess school?

Well, if Donnie, aka “Don,” Most as a washed-out pilot slummin’ as a steward doesn’t get ya . . . maybe Mary Cadorette — who played Vicky, the girl who finally got Jack Tripper to settle down and go from Three’s Company to Three’s a Crowd — as the hot air hostess, will get ya’. How about Wendie Jo Sperber as a frumpy, overweight air hostess?

No. Didn’t think so. Again, where’s Robert Hays and Leslie Neilsen when you need ’em?

Intermission! You need a Chilli Dilly! And a hotdog!

Back to the Show!

Movie 3: Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

Leave it to Sean Penn to save day!

Of the glut of teen sex comedies, it’s this Cameron Crowe-penned comedy — along with Bob Clark’s Porky’s and, to a lesser extent, Boaz Davidson’s much-adored The Last American Virgin — that major and indie studios desperately tried to imitate but never duplicated.

This one has it all: Phoebe Cates changed our young lives rising out of a pool. The Sherman Oaks Mall is practically a character in itself. Jennifer Jason Leigh is so hot, she breaks up a friendship. We all wanted to be as cool as ticket scalper Damone and wore caps and vests. We wanted to hang out with Jeff Spicoli like his stoner buds Nicholas Cage, Eric Stoltz, and Anthony Edwards. And we begged our parents for a pair of checked vans. And we all wanted jobs at the mall slingin’ fast food and selling movie tickets (and working in the record store). And it came with a pretty cool Sammy Hagar theme song.

An all-out classic. Watch it.

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

Drive-In Friday: Slobs vs. Snobs Comedy Night

As Robert Freese pointed out in his “Exploring: 80s Comedies” featurette for B&S About Movies, the late ’70s one-two punch of National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978) and Meatballs (1979) opened up a cottage industry of comedies featuring snobs vs. slobs, lovable losers, and harmless, misguided man-children behaving badly — with Caddyshack solidifying the genre to carry us through the rest of ’80s . . . and beyond with the likes of American Pie and all of its subsequent knockoffs.

Sadly, for every Easy Money and Revenge of the Nerds . . . well, as Freese points out, there’s was a LOT more swings and misses than hits in the ’80s . . . and we’re scrapin’ the grease pits and threadin’ the reels with four of ’em.

You’ve been warned.

Movie 1: Joysticks (1983)

Oh, man. Movie tough guy Joe Don Baker as a curmudgeonly businessman who wants to shut down the local video arcade? Greydon Clark, who directed The Uninvited, Without Warning, and Wacko, and acted in Satan’s Sadists is behind the beeps n’ boops? Nicholas Josef von Sternberg, the guy who lensed Petey Wheatstraw and Mistress of the Apes, sat behind the camera?

I’m all in.

This movie was such a big deal that Midway allowed the image of Pac-Man to be used, as well as their new game Satan’s Hollow, and the as-yet-unreleased Super Pac-Man during the big showdown at the movie’s end.

What the . . . did I just program both a Greydon Clark and a Nicholas Josef von Sternberg Drive-In Friday tribute nights?

Movie 2: My Chauffeur (1986)

Sigh . . . Deborah Foreman, as Sam pointed out in his review, is our favorite 1980s comedy girl that caused our hearts to weep in the frames of Real Genius, Valley Girl, and April Fools Day. And she was always reliable and dependable on screen. How she never broke though to the A-List in major Hollywood films as the next “Meg Ryan” with her plucky Carole Lombard crossed with early Shirley MacLaine vibe is anyone’s guess.

Well, movies like this certainly didn’t help.

The “golf course” in this one is replaced by the Brentwood Limousine Service run by Howard “Dr. Johnny Fever” Hesseman and owned by E.G Marshall from Creepshow. And, of course, love blooms between Foreman’s commoner driver and E.G’s son played by Sam “Flash Gordon” Jones — on his way to the late ’80s post-apoc slop that is Driving Force and the early ’90s Basic Instinct wannabe that is Night Rhythms.

What the . . . did I just program a Sam Jones Drive-In Friday night?

Intermission! Let’s Eat! You need a Chilly Dilly!

Back to the show!

Movie 3: Hamburger: The Motion Picture (1986)

Not to be confused with Hot Dog: The Movie starring David Naughton (yep, the Dr. Pepper “Making It” from Meatballs American Werewolf guy). And not to be confused for being an actual movie. And no, you’re not confused: writer and director Mike Marvin — yes, the guy who concocted one of the most F’up car flicks ever, The Wraith — is behind both fast food oddities.

So, if you think that any movie that needs to suffix itself with a colon and remind you that it’s a “motion picture” and a “movie” has to be good . . . think again. But, as Sam pointed out in his more complete review: when you’re in a small town with one duplex theater and one quad drive-in back in the ol’ pre-cable TV days with no Internet streaming, you ended up seeing suffix n’ colon’d movies for lack of anything else to do during the summer.

So, if you ever wanted to see a movie where — I am safe enough in my masculinity to admit — the very hot Leigh McCloskey from Dario Argento’s Inferno can’t seem to stop being a hornburger horndog and hooking up with ALL of the girls on campus, this is your movie. And Leigh keeps getting kicked out of schools as result. And his reputation is so bad, Faber College won’t even have him. So he ends up at Buster Burger University run by Dick Butkus in the John Vernon role.

Dude, let’s get the hell out of here and head on down to the Delta House . . . to escape the “The Movie” marathon at the local theater also showing California Girls: The Motion Picture and The Kentucky Fried Movie.

Movie 4: Golfballs! (1999)

We dug up this way-late-to-the-course direct-to-video oddity during our “Police Academy Week” tribute because, well, you think you’re getting a Caddyshack redux, but your really getting a Police Academy rip sans cops and lots of golfballs boobs.

No, it’s not “alright,” when you blatantly steal a whole lot from Caddyshack (right down to a camouflaged Bill Murray clone) and add lots of gratuitous boobs from the likes of Playboy and Howard Stern’s perpetual radio guest Amy Lynn Baxter and adult film star Jennifer Steele. And there’s jokes about blue (golf) balls and bent “wood,” a farting Chihuahua, cussing grannies, and more golf double entendres about “sticks” and “balls,” vaudevillian spit-takes, shower scenes, and public urination.

Maybe if they added a colon and reminded us this was a “motion picture” it would have helped? Nah.

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

Drive-In Friday: Evil Telephones

Back in the days of rotary phones, the phone ringing — with no idea who was on the other end — was incredibly frightening. Therefore, as we move through the best month of the year, it’s time for some ringing from the dark side. I was going to say to save a quarter if you need to call, but I was born a long time ago and not every reader would get the reference.

1. I Saw What You Did (William Castle, 1965): Is this one of the first slashers? Is there anyone better than Joan Crawford? How great was life before Caller ID, when you could call people at will and abuse them over the phone? Well, maybe it wasn’t that awesome for the teens in this movie, because they pretty much invite a maniac over to kill them.

2. Black Christmas (Bob Clark, 1974): Speaking of early slashers, no movie of this genre makes better use of the telephone. That’s right, not even When a Stranger Calls. And don’t even say Scream. Nope, Billy’s increasingly unhinged calls go on until past the end of the movie, making everyone uncomfortable every time a phone goes one ringy dingy (yes, I really am that old).

3. 976-EVIL (Robert Englund, 1988): Age being the theme — and phones, yes, always phones — we once lived in a world where every piece of media had a 976 number (or 900) to go with it. Don’t believe me?

That leads us to this movie, where an astrology line promises great power to teenagers that need it. Along the way, that phone line brings the gate to Hell to one of their bedrooms and sends hundreds of cats to devour a church lady.

4. Bells (Michael Anderson, 1982): Also known as Murder by Phone, this pits John Houseman and Richard Chamberlain — truly a dream team for 1982’s teenagers — attempt to stop a slasher who is using high pitched noises through the phone to blow peoples’ heads clean off.

If you’re looking for more phone-rich horror, I can also recommend one of the segments of Black Sabbath, the J-horror series One Missed Call and a movie I already had in one of these drive-in evenings, the astounding Dial:Help, a film in which a payphone perforates a pervert with quarters.

By the way, this is where I confess that a good chunk of my teenage years were spent calling movie theaters and drive-ins to see what was playing that weekend, then being sad that my parents wouldn’t take me. I mean, would you drive a barely post-puberty Sam to see The Manitou and have him flipping out for a week? Trust me. I was a handful.

DRIVE-IN FRIDAY: Trains Times Two!

This is our second week of drive-in movies set on a train. Get your sleeper cabin ready, we have plenty of movies ready to keep you up all night! Also — if you need one, grab a car heater at the snack bar, where you can also get some hot coffee to warm you up.

1. Night Train to Terror (John Carr, Phillip Marshak, Tom McGowan, Jay Schlossberg-Cohen and Gregg G. Tallas, 1985): This movie is absolutely insane, a film that obsessed me since the first time I saw it. How else can you describe three barely finished movies mashed together with a band of dancing kids destined to die on a train due to a game between Satan and God? What a strange way to start the night off, but also a perfect film to get the train chugging along. We think we can, we think we can!

2. Curse of the Demon (Jacques Tourneur, 1957): A noir-esque tale of a devil-worshipper using a demon to destroy his enemies, this film makes incredibly effective use of a locomotive near the end of the film. It’s also one of the best horror movies ever made.

3. Amok Train (Jeff Kwitny, 1989): Also known as Beyond the Door III, this one doesn’t just have a killer on a train, it has an entire train that is a killer. A completely baffling bit of ridiculousness, I have a big soft spot in my heart for this movie.

4. Train to Busan (Sang-ho Yeon, 2016): As a train makes its way from Seoul to Busan, the passengers have more to deal with than tourism. There’s also a zombie virus that threatens everyone involved. An animated prequel, Seoul Station, and a second film set in the same universe, Peninsula, have since followed.

Whew! We made it! There are so many great train movies that elicit chills that we could do so many more weeks! Do you have a suggestion? Want a week of your own? Let us know!