This week, our drive-in goes on the road — err, the rails — to deliver four different horrific tales that take place on a train. All aboard!
1. Terror Train (Roger Spottiswoode, 1980): Jamie Lee Curtis’ third entry into the early days of the slasher, Terror Train may not have a unique plot, but it does have an original mask-changing killer, a great location and literal magic. By that, we mean the stage magic of David Copperfield.
2. Horror Express (Eugeno Martin, 1972): Also known as Pánico en el Transiberiano (Panic on the Trans-Siberian Express), this film unites three great actors — Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Telly Savalas — and puts them aboard a train that is being stalked by an alien being.
3. Dr. Terror’s House of Horror(Freddie Francis, 1965): The first of the Amicus series of anthology films, this film allows us to stay on board with the Lee and Cushing team. In this one, Cushing plays the tarot-card reading Doctor Schreck, whose fortunes to the other passengers include killer vines, voodoo trumpet music, disembodied hands, werewolves and vampires.
4. Last Stop on the Night Train (Aldo Lado, 1975): I love that this ad promises that there will be no happy ending for this steam-powered version of Last House on the Left. Also known as Night Train Murders, The New House on The Left, Second House on The Left, Don’t Ride on Late Night Trains, Late Night Trains, Last House Part II and XmasMassacre, this movie ended up on the list of video nasties long after it was made.
Are you loving the idea of terror on a, well, train? Good news. We’ve got more track for next week. We’ll pick you up at the same time and same station.
MOVIE 1: Ricco the Mean Machine (Tulio Demichelli, 1973): Is it a giallo? Is it a horror movie? What title — Cauldron of Death, Gangland, Un Tipo Con una Faccia Strana ti Cerca per Ucciderti (A Guy With a Strange Face Is Looking for You to Kill You), The Dirty Mob or Mean Machine — will we be seeing as the title card? Who cares! Sure, Chris Mitchum is blah, but this has Barbara Bouchet dancing naked in the fog atop a convertible, making gangster’s minds into lust-ridden mush, as well as castrations and acid baths. It’s a mess. It’s also entertaining as hell.
MOVE 2: Kill or Be Killed (1980, Ivan Hall): You’d think South Africa wouldn’t make a great martial arts movie and you’d be so wrong. Nazis getting involved? Evil little people? A frenzied arty shooting style that might give you a migraine? Aww yeah. It’s on Tubi.
MOVIE 3: Ator 2: The Blade Master (1982. David Hills AKA Joe D’Amato AKA Aristide Massacces): Miles O’Keefe and the Cinemax After Dark Fanny Hill (Lisa Foster) in a sword and sorcery scum fest with nukes? You may have seen this as The Cave Dwellers, but just imagine seeing Miles in a loincloth under the stars! There’s a Commander USA version of this on YouTube!
MOVIE 4: The Force Beyond (1978, William Sachs): Now that everyone is good and drunk or better, it’s time for the director of The Incredible Melting Man to, well, melt our brains with this tabloid on film, all about UFOs, Bigfoot, Atlantis, Cayce and more. Your narrator? Pirate radio legend Emperor Rosko. You can watch it for free at the Internet Archive.
There are so many insane FVI movies — enough to do a whole year of drive-in nights. But hey — why not pick your own and send them our way? We’d love to feature your own drive-in picks.
“Documentaries are boring. Who wants to watch a bunch of talking heads bragging about themselves?” —Eric, purveyor of film quality and all things Sein(feld)suck.
And to a degree, I agree with my running-bud Eric: unless you have an interest in the subject matter at hand. As someone who’s spent his life in radio broadcasting and enamored with the craft of filmmaking, I’ve watched more than my fair share documentaries on the subjects of broadcasting and radio personalities, and film with its related actors and directors. And, even in person, those creative individuals can push self-aggrandizing into the new limits of boredom.
Don’t believe me?
Go to a party or any social gathering. Find yourself an actor or director. And I am not talking about running into a well-rounded, educated fellow like Werner Herzog with whom you can have a meaningful conversation about anything from soup to nuts. I am talking about the (always) one-the-way-up-and-after-one-film-they-think-they’re-Elvis types. But since this is in reference to film: Steven Spielberg. And actors are worse than directors. Christian Bale and Klaus Kinski earned the right to set-rant. You, Mr. DeMille and Ms. Desmond, do not.
Don’t believe me?
Watch The Disaster Artist, the (excellent) dramedy about the making of Tommy Wiseau’s The Room. There’s a telling scene in the film where actor Greg Sestero confides his career frustrations to a fellow thespian—and all the other actor can do is drone on and on about how great his career is going. And as someone with lots of “under the tent” experience in holding areas, I’ve seen and heard it all, ad nauseam. Sestero tells it true.
And screenwriters? Well, I’ll spare you that paragraph, but here’s the equation: Director ego x Actor oneselfness = the greatest screenwriter in the world, aka “Listen to me, for I am the lord god of all scribes surveyed.”
And heaven forbid if you don’t like that up-and-coming Elvis-Spielberg’s latest entry to their no-one-has-ever-heard-of-or-seen oeuvre, aka a celluloid nobody and never will be: be prepared for the bowels of hell to rip open and for the lathes of heaven to crash into the fiery abyss and scorch to embers. Yeah, sometimes (almost always) the auteur is just another egomaniacal Billy Walsh (know your Entourage trivia) who blesses you with the distinct privilege of viewing their master(shite)piece—just because it received a set of “Official Selection” leaves from some obscure, off-the-circuit, emo-haughty film festival that won’t be in business next year and mainstream Hollywood doesn’t acknowledge because, well, Hollywood is already full up with more talented haughties than yourself. But thanks for asking! We’ll be looking for that star on the walk of fame, DeMille.
But even the established directors can be a handful, as evidenced in The Man You Love to Hate (1979), about the uncompromising director of silent films, Erich von Stroheim (acted inSunset Boulevard). There’s Luchino Visconti (1999), about the iconic neorealist behind (the incredible, must watches) The Leopard, Death in Venice and Ludwig. There’s Felini: I’m a Born Liar (2002), Carl Th. Dreyer: My Métier (1995), about the director behind the seminal vampire flick, 1932’s Vampyr, and Pier Paolo Pasolini: A Film Maker’s Life (1971). And you can go on and on . . . with docs about Robert Altman, a couple regarding Woody Allen and Roman Polanksi, along with Orson Wells, Howard Hawks, Bergman, Kurosawa, Kurbick, and even producer Robert Evans. The documentary Easy Riders, Raging Bulls examines the industry and careers of ‘60s “bulls” Martin Scorsese, Dennis Hopper, Peter Bogdanovich, and Sam Peckinpah. And, speaking of Werner Herzog: Burden of Dreams (1982) follows the German (deserving of the noun spoken in the same sentence as his name) auteur as he deals with difficult actors, bad weather and getting a boat over a mountain during Fitzcarraldo.
But this is B&S About Movies . . . and you know us crazy, frolicking lads in the wilds of Allegheny County. We’ve got to go just a little bit deeper into the films—the realm of documentaries about directors. You may not know them. You may know them and hate them. But you know what: they don’t care. They, with a Kurt Vonnegut tenacity, just keep on creating. And that’s cool with me.
Movie 1: The Insufferable Groo (2018)
At the time of the filming of this documentary by Scott Christopherson, Provo, Utah, resident Steven Groo’s resume encompassed 166 films—after its release, his resume grew to 200 films. A lesser documentarian would most likely—as so many internet warriors—slag Groo’s ultra-low-budget tales. Instead—what makes this film so lovely and tragic at the same time—is that Christopherson focuses on Groo’s determination to tell his stories. While Groo can be admittedly abrasive, his tenacity paid off with the patronages of actor Jack Black and director Jared Hess of Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre fame. And Jack Black starred in Goo’s Unexpected Race (2018). In the end, you root for Groo.
You can watch The Insufferable Groo as a free-with-ads stream on TubiTv. You can also watch Unexpected Race on the platform as well.
Movie 2: Neil Breen Movie Magic (2020)
When Tommy Wiseau’s name drops, the name of ultra-independent filmmaker Neil Breen follows. To say he’s a film cult icon is an understatement. Plug his name into You Tube and you’ll discover the rabid fandom of his works.
A licensed architect by trade, Breen self-financed, directed and starred in his debut feature, Double Down (2005). As of 2018, he’s made five films and is in pre-production on his sixth film.
Love ‘em. Hate ‘em. Say they suck, but courtesy of an underground fan base cultivated on You Tube, Breen’s films—in a Wiseauian twist—have been picked up by arthouse theatres and film festivals around the world.
And, in a twist: Breen released his own documentary, Neil Breen’s 5 Film Retrospective, in May 2020, which is another must-watch for Breen fans. You can watch Breen’s insights on himself on You Tube, as well.
In lieu of the usual Drive-In advert or trailer, check out the fun article, “Typing at the Drive-In: Celebrating Correspondence,” by Leanne Ricchiuti at CivMix. It’s about the interesting repurposing of the Greenville Drive-In in Greenville, New York, with the QWERTY Typewriter and Letter Arts Festival held from Sept. 14-19. The Greenville is on Facebook.
The next feature starts in five minutes!
Movie 3: Will Work for Views: The Lo-Fi Life of Weird Paul (2019)
Say what you will about Pittsburgh You Tube star Weird Paul—but the dude has 34,000-plus subscribers. People love him. You can’t help but dig him and his unique brand of retro-‘80s video productions, which he’s been posting since signing onto You Tube on Feb 4, 2007. I’ve been a fan of Paul’s ever since. And so should you. He’d make Kurt Vonnegut proud.
You can watch Will Work for Views as a free-with-ads stream on TubiTV.
Movie 4: Overnight (2003)
It amazes me that for as many people that have watched Boondock Saints—and quote the film, wear the t-shirts, and even have Boondock Saints “double gun” lamps on their end tables in their media room—have no knowledge of this documentary shot by writer-director Troy Duffy’s former friends.
You may have heard the stories about Duffy’s meteoric rise and even quicker fall, but here’s your chance to see it all up close and personal. Even if you aren’t a fan of documentaries or have not the need-to-know about what goes on behind a camera, you’ll be fascinated by this document that tells us the story of a (film and music) career that might have been. For bless the “Holy Fool.”
You can watch Overnight as a free with-ads-stream on TubiTv.
“Documentaries suck and are made by people who can’t make a real movie. I’d rather sit through a TBS Seinsuck marathon.” —Eric
Indeed, Eric. Indeed.
Like I always say: Friends and film, huh? But chicks and film is (always) worse. (A woman who digs Klaus Kinski and knows Paul Naschy’s works is out there, somewhere! I can hope.)
Again, in the eyes of the many: documentaries just aren’t their canister of celluloid. Yes, documentaries—if you’re not into the subject at hand—can be as pedestrian as a CBS-TV 48 Hours segment or as bone-dust dry as a PBS-TV chronicle. But that’s not the case with these four heartfelt, well-made documents of their equally talented, intriguing subjects—each who make Vonnegut proud.
I just read the best quote: “I am not joking. The proliferation of horror movies where the bad guy wins is clearly, obviously, a demonic plot to increase cynicism and teach people that it is stupid to feel hope or expect justice. It is ONE HUNDRED PERCENT a satanic psyop.”
Oh man, welcome to B&S About Movies.
Tonight, we turn to the Church of Satan approved film list to curate a night of parables ready to teach you the ways of the Left Hand Path. Remember — “There is a beast in man that should be exercised, not exorcised.” I believe that there is no better place to celebrate the joy of being alive than the drive-in.
MOVIE 1: Evilspeak (Eric Weston, 1981): This movie brutalizes Clint Howard so badly that no amount of revenge — much less church-based decapitations — is enough. Imagine Carrie with Clint just getting continually abused until he turns to Richard Moll’s ghost. Remember: Satan represents vengeance instead of turning the other cheek.
MOVIE 2: The Masque of the Red Death (Roger Corman, 1964): Vincent Price embodies so much of the Satanic ideal — and appears on the list of approved films more than once. This film, about a party against a plague claiming the surrounding world — hmm, sound familiar — is one of the best films ever made. A drive-in viewing decimated me one night, making me question my place in the world and pushing me to do more. That’s one of the reasons this site exists. “Satan represents indulgence instead of abstinence.”
MOVIE 3: Curse of the Demon (Jacques Tourneur, 1957): Often, the movies that frightened me as a child seem silly today. This movie has somehow became even moe frightening and the famous image of the creature doesn’t even need to be in this. You must experience it. “If a guest in your home annoys you, treat him cruelly and without mercy.”
MOVIE 4: The Night of the Hunter(Charles Laughton, 1955): Stupidity is one of the Nine Satanic Sins. That’s the one that I claim for the critics, fools who destroyed this film, a movie that has become a true classic of American film. I honestly am hard pressed to think of a film from this country that can compare. Somehow, this film begins in reality and enters a strange fairy tale world of expressionism and unstoppable evil cloaking itself in the guise of religion. “Do not harm little children.”
As Anton Lavey once said, “On Saturday night, I would see men lusting after half-naked girls dancing at the carnival, and on Sunday morning when I was playing organ for tent-show evangelists at the other end of the carnival lot, I would see these same men sitting in the pews with their wives and children, asking God to forgive them and purge them of carnal desires. And the next Saturday they’d be back at the carnival or some other place of indulgence.”
As for the drive-in lovers, who stay up all night staring into the loving night at the glowing screen, we will be sleeping all day.
It all began with the 1964 sand n’ sandal flicks The Revolt of the Pretorians and The Magnificent Gladiator, along with an array of Poliziotteschi flicks. In between was an X-rated romp with 1969’s The Labyrinth of Sex and 1974’s seen-to-be-believed Super Stooges vs the Wonder Women. And it all pretty much ended when Uncle Al decided to take on George Lucas. We never saw him again on U.S. screens—big or small.
So, have you ever met two guys debating the content of Alfonso Brescia’s “Star Wars” rips? Welcome to mine and Sam’s world: a bizarro-universe where he mixes colorful, alcohol concoctions based on movies and we destroy our livers debating superfluous movie facts, much to the chagrin of poor Becca. Not even a Bill Van Ryn smack-on-the-side-of-the-head cures our Bresciamania.
Sam is of the critics who believe Uncle Al’s “Pasta Wars” is comprised of only four films: Cosmos: War of the Planets (aka Year Zero War in Space), Battle of the Stars, (aka Battle in Interstellar Space), War of the Robots (aka Reactor), and finally, Star Odyssey (aka Seven Gold Men in Space, Space Odyssey, Metallica and Captive Planet).
I’m on the side that there was actually five films in the series, which completed with 1980’s La Bestia nello Spazio, aka The Beast in Space in English venacular, aka “Star Wars V,” aka “Porn Wars,” because, well . . . it’s a porn movie.
Five! Arrrgh! Let’s break ’em down! But first, this 2012 trailer remix for the best known of Uncle Al’s “Pasta Wars” flicks: Star Odyssey.
Movie 1: Cosmos: War of the Planets (1977)
Many sci-fi connoisseurs believe Brescia’s “Star Wars” debut isn’t so much a rip-off of Star Wars: they opine it’s a homage to another Italian space epic, one that was produced amid all of those Antonio Margheriti-spaghetti space operas: Mario’s Bava’s Terrore nello Spazio, aka Terror in Space (known in American theatres as Planet of Vampires; then in its U.S TV syndication as Demon Planet).
On this point, Sam and I concure: Look at the costuming and alien-possession subplots of Bava’s and Brescia’s films for comparison. Adding to the celluloid confusion: Cosmos had similarly-influenced—if not the very same-recycled—costumes and sets as Margheriti’s films. In addition: Cosmos was also distributed as War of the Planets—which was the title of the 1966 second film of Margheriti’s Gamma One series.
Amid Cosmos’ self-recycled stock footage and shot-through-sheets-of-sepia-paper-and-cheese-cloth special effects, Cosmos also ineptly-lifted whole scenes from 2001: A Space Odyssey (an astronaut completes an upside-down communication device repair-in-space) and Barbarella (sex via touching a “blue orb of light” between beds). The “plot” for those who fell asleep: Our heroes journey to a planet where a green-skinned race is subjugated by an evil computer . . . and the Earth’s Italian “Hal 9000,” “The Wiz,” is possessed by the evil alien computer. . . .
Is this plotline picked up in the next movie? Nope. But all the sets, props, and costumes sure do redux.
Believe it or not, with everyone tricked into believing they were seeing another “Star Wars,” Cosmos: War of the Planets turned a profit in theatres (they got my coin at the duplex; the same plex that played Lou Cozzi’s Starcrash). It also aired forever during the ’80s on Friday and Saturday night and Saturday morning UHF-TV.
You can watch one of the many uploads on You Tube.
Movie 2:Battle of the Stars (1978)
. . . And Uncle Al returned with his “Empire Strikes Back” in the form of Battaglie negli spazi stellar (aka Battle in Interstellar Space), but it was given a new U.S. title because it sounds suspiciously like “Battlestar Galactica.” And since that was Glen Larson’s cheap-jack Lucas rip, that makes this a Star Wars rip twice removed.
Alas, Uncle Al’s “Star Wars II” suffered from poor theatrical distribution and a weak reissue via home video and TV syndication. Then, with all the alternate titling that plagues European films as they’re distributed to the international markets, spacesploitation buffs believed the almost-impossible-to-find Battle of the Stars was Cosmos—with a new title. Of course, when the main cast of familiar Italian actors Gianno Garko, Malisa Longo, Antonio Sabato, Yanti Somer, and John Richardson—along with most of their support cast—keep showing up in subsequent films, that only adds to the confusion.
Regardless, it’s not the same film.
Battle of the Stars is an entirely new film that cannibalizes Cosmos for stock footage—and all the costumes and sets return. As is the case with most “sequels” (Alien vs. Aliens and Mad Max vs. The Road Warrior being the exceptions to the rule), Battle is a just remake/reimage of Cosmos—with a little script tweak: Instead of Earthlings traveling to the planet-home of the evil computer, this time the rogue planet without-an-orbit-and-pissed-off-sentient-being comes to Earth, which . . . was the plot of Margheriti’s Battle of the Planets.
Hey?! What happened to the ship with its computer, “The Wiz,” possessed by the alien computer in Cosmos? Is that cleared up in Part III? Nope, that plotline is done and gone. . . .
You can watch a really clean Italian-language rip of Battle of the Stars on You Tube.
The snack bar is open . . . .
Intermission with Jason of Star Command and Space Academy . . .
Yep, all of the one-piece spandex suits and pull-over headpieces were back for a third sequel . . . with a society of gold-painted skin people pinch-hitting for the green folks from Cosmos. Why? On this point Sam and I agree: There’s no “artistic” meaning behind it. Uncle Al simply ran out of the five-gallon buckets of green grease paint and he found some gold paint in the stock room. Ah, but all of the stock SFX footage, costumes, and sets—and whole scenes lifted from the previous two films—are back.
The “plot,” such as it is: Gold Aryan robots with Dutch-boy haircuts are on the brink of extinction. And the solution is to kidnap a couple of Earth scientists to save their planet. So a crack team of space marines (see Aliens; which wasn’t made yet!) are sent in for a rescue.
What makes “Pasta Wars III” so utterly confusing: All of the same actors from the last two films come back—as different characters. So, it’s a “sequel” . . . then it’s not. Will the fourth film tie up the loose end regarding the possessed Wiz from part one. . . .
You can watch this one of the many uploads of War of the Robots on You Tube.
So . . . George Lucas was still in production with the second Star Wars movie, The Empire Strikes Back (1980)—and Brescia is already on his 4th sequel with 1979’s “The Gold Ayran Dutch Boy Robots” (as I like to call it) . . . but they really were back in Sette Uomini d’oro nello Spazi, aka Seven Gold Men in Space which, if you’re able to keep up with the alternate-titling of Italian films, became Star Odyssey for English-speaking audiences.
And you thought Roger Corman was the king of set, prop, and wardrobe recycling? Uncle Al’s recycling makes Glen Larson’s cheap n’ shameless footage, prop, and costume recycling from the Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers franchise-axis seem inspired.
The plot: In the year 2312 the Earth is referred to by evil aliens as “Sol 3.” “Darth Vader” is some guy in a (quite impressive) lizard skin mask (but it’s topped with a Farrah Fawcett-’70s feathered hair cut) that “buys” Earth in some inter-galactic auction to cultivate Earthlings as slaves to sell on the open market. And his army is the gold Dutch Boy robots . . . but didn’t we save them in War of the Robots? Welcome to the Brescia-verse. . . .
“Han Solo” is some guy in a shiny-silver Porsche racing jacket and a funky, disco-inspired spider web tee-shirt contracted for a The Magnificent Seven-inspired recruitment of a rescue team of rogues . . . thus ripping off Roger Corman’s Battle Beyond the Stars. Part of the “seven” are Uncle Al’s R2D2 and C3PO: a bickering male-female robot couple (the female has eyelashes and red lips) dealing with “sexual dysfunction” and “relationship issues.” And there’s a scrawny n’ skinny Han Solo-replicant acrobat who backflips and summersaults into battles—and makes a living fighting in boxing rings with Rock ’em Sock ’em Robots (know your ’70s toys). And what’s up with the “Luke Skywalker” of this space opera: Lt. Oliver ‘Hollywood’ Carrera? What’s with the obviously drawn-on mustache? Why is he hunching his back and arching his shoulders? Is it a parody of some Italian comedy actor we Americans don’t know about?
As result of Star Odyssey never playing in U.S. theatres or airing on U.S. UHF-TV in-syndication (at least not to mine and Sam’s recollections), the only way we watched this fourth “Pasta Wars” sequel was on numerous public domain DVD multi-packs. And regardless of the distributor, the “cut” of the film is always the same: somewhere along the way, the scissors were taken to the film and there’s several scenes out of sequence. Remember in Space Mutiny, when Lt. Lemont is dramatically killed off in a scene . . . and she shows up just fine in the very next scene? It’s like that, only it happens several times in Star Odyssey.
I keep promising myself that I’ll rip Star Odyssey and do a proper “fan cut” and put it back into its proper sequence in homage to Uncle Al. . . . Don’t hold you breath waiting for that You Tube upload.
You can watch Star Odyssey in all its continuity-screwed glory on You Tube.
Movie 5: Beast in Space (1980)
And now for the movie that’s come dangerously close to destroying a friendship. Alfonso Brescia’s oeuvre has that effect on people . . . well, just me and ‘ol Sam.
Anyway . . . remember the infamous, 1972 X-rated Flash Gordon porn-flick, Flesh Gordon? Did you ever wonder if Reece and Ripley (and we know they did, off-script and off camera) “got it on” in Aliens? Ever ponder if Han threw Leia across the Dejarik Chess Table and undid her cinnabons?
Well, welcome to Porn Wars.
There’s George Lucas, killing the box office with The Empire Strikes Back, and Brescia responds with his “Star Wars V”: 1980’s La Bestia nello Spazio, aka The Beast in Space. The interesting twist to this “sequel” is that it not only occurs in the same Brescia Pasta-verse (courtesy of footage, costumes, props, sets, and actors recycling) continued from Star Odyssey, it’s also a “sequel” to an infamously popular, 1975 Italian exploitation movie, The Beast. The “connection” between both films: erotic/exploitation actress Sirpa Lane sporting a pair of Brescia-space tights.
So how did they come up with the title Beast in Space, you ask? As result of her erotic/exotic films—especially The Beast—Sirpa Lane was a major star (and marketed as the “next Brigitte Bardot”) in Europe and christened with the affectionate stage name by the Euro-press: “The Beast.”
Issued in “PG,” “R” and “X”-rated formats, the “plot” concerns the Earth’s search of the cosmos for a rare element: Antallum, the key ingredient for bomb construction to basically kill off everyone in the universe. But wait . . . Earth already possessed that wonder-metal to accomplish space travel in the first film . . . so is this a prequel?
Eh, that’s plot piffle in the Brescia-verse.
The real story: The crew is “horny,” with chauvinistic men and slutty women astronauts seducing each other on their way to the planet Lorigon to plunder the planet of its Antallum honey hole. Well, the planet’s sentient super-computer (not again!) isn’t having any of that nonsense. That’s his Antallum. So “Hal 9000” sidetracks the Earthlings . . . by inciting them to indulge in their deepest, darkest sexual desires. Oh, did we mention the gold Aryan Dutch Boy robots are back as well? And the well-hung minotaur from Lane’s sexual dreams is real and lives on Lorigon?
The English language upload is gone. All we have is this Spanish-language upload on You Tube for you to sample.
So be it Star Odyssey or The Beast in Space—or four or five films—Uncle Al’s “Pasta Wars” was over. After turning out his “Star Wars” films in a short four years, Brescia turned over the keys to the Millennium Falcon. But let’s cut Uncle Al a break: he was saddled with the cheapest budgets and pressure-shoot schedules that no filmmaker should endure in their careers.
Brescia continued to make non-science fiction films for the remainder of his career—14 more films for the next 15 years. At the time of his retirement in 1995, Brescia completed a career total of 51 films.
Most of Brescia’s post-1980 work was primarily restricted to Italy-only distribution. His career took a financially-positive turn in the late-‘80s with the worldwide-distributed Iron Warrior (1987; the third in the hugely successful Italian rip-off series of Conan the Barbarian) and Miami Cops (1989; violent Miami Vice-inspired buddy-cop flick starring Richard Roundtree). Sadly, even with the success of Iron Warrior and Miami Cops, Brescia was unable to secure distribution for his self-financed final film, the 1995 action-comedy, Club Vacanze.
Alfonso Brescia, the king of the Star Wars-inspired spaghetti-space opera died, ironically, in 2001.
And that’s the story behind tonight’s “Drive-In Friday” salute to Uncle Al.
About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S Movies.
New Hampshire’s Brett Piper is a self-made screenwriter, director, and special effects artist who shoots most of his films in Pennsylvania, most notably in the western and northwestern counties of Cambria and Tioga County. He’s also a self-professed purveyor of “schlock” who eschews modern CGI for “old school” special effects, such as matte paintings, miniatures, and stop-motion animation.
And we, the staff of B&S About Movies, love Piper for it: For if Piper had been around during the regional era of Drive-in exploitation, we’d be warmed by the crackle of a speaker hanging on our car window. We’d rent every one of his VHS ditties from the ‘80s home video shelves, warmed by the cathode ray tube’s glow.
Piper’s resume is extensive, there’s a lot to watch: he’s directed 18 films, wrote 19, and created special effects for 22 films—for his own films as well as the films of his frequent brothers-in-arms collaborator, Mark Polonia (Empire of the Apes).
So if you’re nostalgic for the works of Ray Harryhausen, but burnt out on repeat viewings of that stop-motion master’s works; if you’re burnt out on today’s green-motion tracking and After Effects computer-animated extravaganzas; if you want aliens cast well-made masks and full-body suits and actors emoting alongside in-camera effects, then the films of Brett Piper are just what the VOD streaming doctor ordered.
Ice up that Orange Crush and defoil that burger . . . five, four, three, two, one!
Movie 1: Queen Crab (2015)
We’ll start off our Friday Brett Piper festival with my favorite of his films: one with best character development, acting, and special effects—and one that we have not yet reviewed at B&S About Movies. While there’s a soupçon of Ray Harryhausen in the crab pot (ugh, sorry!), this is a full-on Bert I. Gordon homage to his (very loose) 1976 H.G Wells adaptation of Food of the Gods (with an honorable mention to the Robert Lansing-starring Island Claw from 1980).
What causes the crab to go “gigantic”? A little girl brings home Pee-wee, a baby pet crab from the lake behind her house—and feeds it grapes infused with her daddy-scientist’s plant growth hormone. After her parents die in a freak lab explosion and she’s adopted by her uncle-sheriff, Melissa grows up into a tough-as-nails teenager, aka Queen Crab, who serves as protector to Pee-wee and her clan of babies—complete with a psychic link. Shotguns n’ rednecks, tanks n’ planes (well, one of each) ensues as the misunderstood crustacean who, like King Kong before her, didn’t ask for any of this sci-fi ruckus.
And speaking of misunderstood: There’s poor little Melissa, stuck in the middle of the sticks of Crabbe County with no friends and parents that constantly bicker and ignore her. She’s practically a latchkey kid with only a crab as her friend. So, do we root for the crab? Damn straight. Kick ass, Pee-wee, for Melissa is Queen in this neck of the Pennsylvanian countryside.
When a TV producer’s (Piper acting-mainstay, ‘80s metal drummer-cum-actor Steve Diasparra; also of Amityville Death House, Amityville Exorcism, and Amityville Island*) career disintegrates on live TV when his report on a legendary backwoods demon haunting Pennsylvania’s Pine Creek Gorge is exposed as a fraud, he’s hell bent on redemption. When he convinces a cable TV mogul to back his quest, Mickey O’Hara heads back into the swamps with a sexy TV personality. Only, this time, there’s no need to “fake it” as the gooey, tentacled Muckman shows up—and he’s not only got the love jones for film crew member Billie Mulligan, Mucky’s brought along a tentacle sidekick of the Queen Crab variety.
Just a good ‘ol fashioned, campy monster romp from the analog days of old.
You can watch this as a free-with-ads stream on TubiTV.
The snack bar is open . . .Intermission!
Thank you, Vinegar Syndrome for honoring the works of Brett Piper! Now back to the show!
Have you ever wondered what would happen if Bert I. Gordon produced a Ray Harryhausen-directed mockbuster of Independence Day? Well, wonder no more with Brett Piper’s most recent, eighteenth and best-produced film of his resume. And, bonus: we also get a throwback to all of our beloved ‘80s Italian apocalypse flicks** in the bargin!
Blake is the resident Trash-cum-Parsifal (known your ‘80s apoc heroes!) who teams with Kay, a radiant, supermodel bow-hunter, to help a crusty elder scientist discover the key to save the Earth from the invading alien hoards and their otherworldly “hunting dogs” in the form of giant, stout lizards.
A fun, something fresh and new watch filled with the nostalgia that we love in our films.
You can watch Outpost Earth as a with-ads-stream on You Tube.
We confessed our perpetual love for this debut feature film from Brett Piper during our two-week December Star Wars blowout*ˣ in commemoration of the release of Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker.
Pipers’s Star Wars-inspired take-off of Jules Verne’s Mysterious Island—by way of Ray Harryhausen’s classic 1961 film of the same name—concerns a “wretched hive of scum and villainy” band of mercenaries crash landing on an uncharted planet after a space battle. Adopting a jungle girl into their fold, they battle prehistoric snails and dragons as they make their way into a final showdown with the planet’s ancient ruler: a super-intelligent computer ˣ*.
The bottom line: Brett Piper overflows with that same Tommy Wiseau-heart (The Room) and John Howard-tenacity (Spine) as he gives us a special, endearing quality with his films that’s absent from most—if not all—major studio offerings.
So strap on the popcorn bucket and ice up the Dr. Pepper and Doc Brown back to the Drive-In ‘70s with one of the greats of the retro-cinema. Keep ’em coming, Brett. We love ’em!
* We went nuts on Amityville and all of its sequels, rip-offs, and sidequels, etc. back in February with our “Exploring: Amityville” featurette. Uh, Sam? You’re the resident Amityville authority in this neck of Allegheny County. Time to get crackin’ on the newest, latest entry in the series: Amityville Island . . . and Amityville Hex, Witches of Amityville Academy, Amityville 1974, and Amityville Vibrator.
** Be sure to join us for our two-part September blowout as we explored the Italian and Philippine apocalypse of the ‘80s with our “Atomic Dust Bin” featurettes.
So Sam came up with a “Spaghetti Westerns Week” (running from Sunday, August 16 to Saturday, August 22) . . . and me, with my Klaus Kinski-mania . . . well, it’s time for another “Drive-In Friday” salute to Klaus as we follow up our June “Drive In-Friday” tribute to the five-film oeuvre of Kinski with Werner Herzog.
Klaus made his first jump into the Western-pasta pot in 1965 as Juan Wild, the hunchback member of El Indio’s (Gian Maria Volonte) in Sergio Leone’s For a Few Dollars More. Kinski then appeared in A Bullet for the General (1967; also starring Gian Maria Volonte), and Man, Pride & Vengeance (1967; starring Franco Nero).
As with Kinski’s oeuvre in other genres: I’ve seen some of Kinski’s westerns (the ones featured tonight), but not all of them (and probably never will), but seen most of them courtesy of the long since gone VHS grey market purveyor VSOM: Video Search of Miami, which excelled in making overseas films available in the U.S.
So let’s pop those RC Colas and ride, meho!The riches of the lands South of the Border await us!
Movie 1: The Ruthless Four (1968)
Known in its homeland as Ognuno per sé (aka, Everyone for Himself) — and in West Germany as Das Gold von Sam Cooper (aka, The Gold from Sam Cooper) — Kinski co-stars with Best Supporting Actor Oscar winner Van Heflin (1942’s Johnny Eager), who wowed then little tykes (like myself) roasting under the black & white’s cathode ray glow of Pittsburgh’s WIIC Channel 11 with his roles in the iconic westerns Shane (1953), 3:10 to Yuma (1957), and Gunman’s Walk (1958).
By the turn of the ’60s, Heflin’s star — along with his Gunman’s Walk co-star, Tab Hunter (1988’s Grotesque with Linda Blair) — had fallen, but there was a huge market for American actors in Italian cinema. So Heflin made his first film there, Tempest (1959) and, along with Tab, was billed under Gary Cooper and Rita Hayworth in They Came to Cordura (1959).
The title — and alternate titles — of this one pretty much says it all: Four men embark on a suicide mission for a fortune in gold from a mine owned by Nevada prospector Sam Cooper (Van Heflin). Always the heavy, Kinski is one of the greedy four, Brent the Blonde, a faux-preacher with blood on his hands . . . and one more body means nothing to him.
Up next for Kinski: 1968’s If You Meet Sartana . . . Pray for Your Death. He also worked on the sequel, I Am Sartana, Your Angel of Death (1969). (Sartana was, of course, Gianni Garko, that ‘ol space scoundrel Dirk Laramie from Star Odyssey.)
You can watch The Ruthless Four on You Tube. There’s also a stream on TubiTV.
Movie 2: They Were Called Graveyard, aka Twice a Judas (1968)
Antonio Sabato (Escape from the Bronx and War of the Robots) stars in this film noir-inspired Spaghetti Western as Luke Barrett, a cowboy who regains consciousness with bullet-grazed head wound in the middle of the desert . . . next to a dead man — and a lone rifle with the word “Dingus” carved in its stock. Sabato gathers clues along the way to discover that a hired gunman is out to get him . . . and that he himself was a gun hired to kill Dingus. Yep: You guessed it: Kinski is Dingus and he’s out for blood.
Kinski also worked on Sergio Corbucci’s pasta-western, The Great Silence in the same year.
You can watch They Were Called Graveyard on You Tube.
After working with Antonio Margheriti (1966’s Lightning Bolt) on the western And God Said to Cain (1970), Klaus Kinski received top-billing in this desert noir that Quentin Tarantino* ranked as his 16th personal “Top 20 favorite Spaghetti Westerns.”
Kinksi stars as Dan Hogan, an ex-Ku Klux Klan member leading a gang of bank robbers on the run with $100,000 in gold bars. Hogan’s dark past comes back to haunt him in the form of John Webb (Paolo Casella, who also co-starred with Kinski in the 1970 western, The Beast, and the next film on tonight’s program: 1975’s The Return of Shanghai Joe), a stranger who killed the gang’s guide into Mexico and wants half of their gold for safe passage. And all of their blood. So he really wants all of the gold.
Klaus also starred in the westerns Adios Compañeros, Black Killer, Coffin Full of Dollars, His Name was King, and Vengeance Is a Dish Served Cold that same year. Next up for Kinski: 1972’s A Noose is Waiting for You Trinity.
You can watch Shoot the Living and Pray for the Dying on You Tube.
The film noir-influence of Kinski’s previous pasta-westerns takes a turn into the then hot Kung-Fu genre — courtesy of Japanese-born martial artist Chen Lee (aka, Cheen Lie, playing a Chinese man here). As result of its martial arts plot, this also appeared on several ’70s Drive-In double and triple-bills, alongside more traditional Asian-action imports, as The Dragon Strikes Back (to trick you into thinking you’re seeing a Bruce Lee movie).
In the first film, 1973’s (My Name is) Shanghai Joe (aka, The Fighting Fists Of Shanghai Joe), Kinski was Scalper Jack. In the sequel, Kinski is his usual, sinister self as new character, Pat Barnes: a town boss whose stranglehold over a dusty, desert town runs afoul of Shanghai Joe (actually an uncover U.S. Federal Marshal), who’s assisted by a smooth-talking traveling medicine show man he saved from Barnes’s bully boys.
It’s time to forget all your troubles and indulge yourself in some musical films that just want to entertain you. Each of these movies are borderline insane and make little to no sense, which is just how we like them. Feel free to sing, dance and honk your horns whenever you want.
MOVIE 1: Streets of Fire (Walter Hill, 1984): In some better world than the one we exist in now — another time, another place — this movie was the most important film to come out in 1984 and people celebrate its comic book feel and shot completely indoors feel. This being the hellscape that we’re trying to escape with these movies, we’re not so lucky. But just watch the first five minutes of this and tell me, has Diane Lane ever looked or sounded so transcendent? That’s a trick question. Of course she has, she was in Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains.
MOVIE 2: Wild Zero (Tetsuro Takeuchi, 1999): There’s a chance that this movie is going to wipe everyone out by the end. It’s one of the most astounding films I’ve ever seen, a movie where Guitar Wolf is getting grenades tossed at him, so he starts tuninghis guitar. If you’re ever wondering what the perfect distillation of my brain looks like on film, this is it.
MOVIE 3: Voyage of the Rock Aliens(James Fargo and Bob Giraldi, 1984): James Fargo made The Enforcer and Every Which Way But Loose. Bob Giraldi made the video for “Beat It” and Club Med. Together, they made this ode to 1950’s films, but also a movie where Michael Berryman and a sea monster menace Pia Zadora. This is impossible to find, but guess what? If I had my own drive-in, I’d show it to you.
MOVIE 4: The Apple(Menahem Golan, 1980): If you thought I was going to show four musical movies and not show this, well, you don’t know me. I unironically love this movie like some people are slavish devotees to Star Wars. Except fans of the The Apple don’t get action figures or theme parks. We just get this movie, which is quite honestly the most camel toe that has even been on a screen and almost caused Menahem to kill himself, which would have deprived us of the magic that was Canon Films.
What are your four drive-in movies? Let us know. Any theme, any movies, no rules. Let us know!
Thank the celluloid gods of the analog netherworlds for giving Sam the idea to commemorate the Fast & Furious franchise, thus granting the opportunity to go ’50s hot roddin’ rock n’ roll crazy with this week’s Drive-In Friday tribute.
Tonight’s show takes me back to the days when AMC was still known as “American Movie Classics” and aired actual “classic movies,” most importantly, their American Pop! programming block that ran Saturday Nights from 10:00 p.m to midnight from 1998 to 2003.
To say American Pop! carried a USA Network’s Night Flight* aroma is an understatement, courtesy of its programming roster that featured 1950s and 1960s rock n’ roll-oriented films augmented with classic trailers, music videos cut form period musicals, drive-in movie ads, and old drive-in snipes urging you to “visit the snack bar.” The purpose of the programming block was to ramp an AMC-affiliated 24-hour cable channel . . . that never came to fruition.
Ugh. Heart broken by progress, once again.
Oh, and you can thank — or blame — screenwriter Stewart Stern and director Nicolas Ray for these F&F precursors, for each aspire to emulate the film that started it all: the 1955 juvenile delinquency classic, Rebel Without a Cause. But if you’re looking for social commentaries about clueless parents battling the moral decay of American youth, you best go watch a copy of Richard Brooks’s Blackboard Jungle (1955), instead. And if you’re having Marlon Brando flashbacks ala The Wild One (1953) . . . and if all the “teens” look like 30 year olds, they probably are.
So, alright, gang! Let’s get fast n’ furious, crazy baby! Let’s rock to that hot rockin’ beat, daddy-o!
Movie 1: Hot Rod Girl (1956)
“CHICKEN-RACE . . . ROCK ‘N ROLL . . . YOUTH ON THE LOOSE! . . . ARE THESE OUR CHILDREN? . . . Teen-age terrorists tearing up the streets!”
Now if that fine slice-o-copywritin’ doesn’t inspire you to pony up to the cracklin’ speaker and firin’ up that ol’ bug coil, then nothing will.
As with the plot of most of the Fast & Furious knockoffs of century 21: After his kid brother dies in an illegal street race, a champion drag-racer quits racing. When a new hotshot racer comes to town, he’s forced back into racing to retain his title.
Way to splash that testosterone, guys.
The “Natalie Wood” bad-girl, aka the Hot Rod Girl, who plays the two drag racin’ dopes against each other, is Lori Nelson (co-star of the 1957 rock n’ delinquency flick Untamed Youth with Mamie Van Doren), and the cop on the case is . . . Chuck Connors from Tourist Trap? And one of the “teen” thugs is a 23-year-old Frank Gorshin, aka The Joker of TV’s Batman fame, in his acting debut.
“DRAG STRIP SHOCKS! PISTON-HARD DRAMA! ROCK ‘N ROLL LOVE! . . . A scorching story of the slick chicks who fire up the Big Wheels!”
Hey, dad! It’s more rival car clubs and vehicular homicide via illegal street racing with a poor, misunderstood youth being set up for murder. Oh, and there’s always a heart-toying bad-girl adding to the hot rod drama, in this case, (hubba-hubba) actress Leigh Snowden who — by name alone — makes me feel funny, you know like when you take a Garth Algar-climb up the rope in gym class. Leigh’s other claim to fame: the third Gill-man/Black Lagoon movie that no one cares about: 1956’s The Creature Walks Among Us.
“Young love and teenage kiss . . . hot rods and hot tempers.”
As you can see, the copywriters were having a bad day marketing this James Dean-light knockoff. And you’d think cloning the epitome of teen juvies would lead to bigger roles . . . but not for Chuck Courtney: by the turn of the ’60s he was down to background work as a soldier on Spartacusand as a crewmember on TV’s Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.
He stars as the misunderstood and motherless (typical 27 year old playing an 18-year-old) Johnnie Simpson who lives with his every-criticizing father (see Jim Backus’s in his role as Jim Stark) and Aunt Martha (because aunts are always named “Martha” in the movies). Of course, Johnnie’s family is poor and he can’t afford a fancy hot rod . . . or even a rat rod. But Maurie Weston (hey, that’s Robert Fuller from TV’s Emergency! and Walker, Texas Ranger!), the local town bully-cum-rich kid, has as a set of smokin’ wheels . . . and Jim’s waitress-girlfriend (Melinda Bryon; appeared in 1948’s Kiss the Blood Off My Hands with Burt Lancaster) notices. Yep, Jim’s gotta race for the girl.
Johnnie, my advice: there’s other babes to score at the sock hop. You’ll never win with girls who like the bad-boy. Never. Even when they look like Leigh Snowden.
Now you’re talkin’ Mr. Copywriter. And yes, Mr. Art Director: illegal street racing jousts between Corvettes and Triumph motorcycles is exactly what we want on a poster!
This one has it all: In addition to bike vs. car battles, we have a climatic fishing spear fight scene on the beach, we have (hubba-hubba alert) an on-the-way-up Connie Stevens (of the rockin’ juvie potboilers Young and Dangerous, Eighteen and Anxious, and The Party Crashers issued in ’57 and ’58), and an on-the-way down Fay Wray (do we have to mention her iconic role; she was also in ’56s Rock, Pretty Baby!).
The teen tempers boil when the cleancut members of a sportscar club (complete with sweaters and slacks, natch) runs afoul of a motorcycle gang and it results in the death of one of the instigating bikers. And now they’re out for revenge.
The double hubba-hubba alert comes courtesy of the resident bad-boy chasing femme fatale played by Yvonne Lime, who’s traveled the rockin’ asphalt before in High School Hellcats, Speed Crazy (also a hot rod flick), and Untamed Youth.
“She’s hell on wheels . . . and up for any thrill!”
Seems Mr. Screenwriter dipped the pen into the Shakespearian ink; for this is Othello with hot rods.
Duke (Richard Bakalyan; you’ve seen him across his 150 TV credits into the early ’90s) and Freddie (John Brinkley, who’s traveled this rockin’ road before in Hot Rod Rumble, Teenage Doll, and T-Bird Gang) finance their hot roddin’ lifestyle by stealin’ cars n’ strippin’ auto parts for a fence. When they, along with Duke’s girl, Peg (June Kenney, also of Teenage Doll, but also of 1959’sAttack of the Puppet People and Roger Corman’s Sorority Girl), are goaded into a road race by the resident bad-girl, Janice (Jana Lund, also of High School Hellcats with Yvonne Lime, Elvis Presley’s Loving You, and the rock flick classic, Don’t Knock the Rock . . . but since this B&S About Movies: it’s all about Frankenstein 1970 for our Lundness), a motorcycle cop dies. Let the frames and double crosses, blackmailing and betrayals begin, Desdemona.
Oh, almost forgot: Bruno VeSota is in this as Joe Dobbie (seriously). What ’50s and ’60s film wasn’t the Big V in? Yep, there he is in Attack of the Giant Leeches, A Bucket of Blood, and The Wasp Woman . . . but also of the early rock flicks Daddy-O, Rock All Night, and Carnival Rock. It is actors like you that gives our lives at B&S meaning, Mr. VeSota. We bow to you, sir.
“Crazy kids . . . living to a wild rock n’ roll beat!”
But the “beat” is sung by John Ashley and Gene Vincent???
The ’32 Ford Roadsters as speedin’ fast n’ furious in this tale regarding the trials and tribulations of John Abernathy III, a poor little rich kid who jeopardizes inheriting his father’s wealth with his on-the-down-low, second-rate Elvis crooning with his buddy, Gene Vincent, and his illegal hot roddin’ career. The bad-girl who screws it all up for John is the devilish Lois Cavendish (Jody Fair, best remembered for 1958’s The Brain Eaters, but did the juvie-rock flicks Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow, Girls Town, High School Confidential, and The Young Savages with Burt Lancaster).
And those breasts! Yikes. They’d impale a frail lad like me. No, really.
Hey, those foil hot dog and burger wrappers don’t pick up themselves. And we’ll see you Sunday under the tent for the sock hop! It’ll be a crazy time, dad! (And Leigh Snowden will break my heart, as she goes off with the leather-jacketed and pot smoking Johnny . . . who subsequently abandons her on a bus bench in the middle of nowhere. Guess who comes to her rescue? The heart wants what the heart wants . . . and it’s always bad.)
About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.
* We previously paid tribute to the USA Network’s Night Flight with a recent, four-movie Drive-In Friday featurette.
Crown International Pictures was an independent film studio and distribution company formed in 1959 by Newton P. Jacobs. They were one of the first franchise distributors for American-International Pictures and like that studio, they specialized in low-budget junk. In other words, perfect movies for the drive-in.
Crown was all over the place in what they put out, so I’ve tried to be just as out there with this list. Please enjoy!
Whatever was hot — science fiction, horror, martial arts, biker and just plain old fashioned exploitation. Crown International Pictures supplied it to drive-ins and grindhouses all over the U.S.
MOVIE 1: Don’t Answer the Phone! (Robert Hammer, 1980): It’s no accident that this was amongst the first movies that we watched on our Drive-In Asylum Double Feature show. Kirk Smith terrorizes, well, everyone that he can, whether it’s in person or over the telephone. I decided to put this first, because if you don’t make it through this one, the rest of Crown’s films are really going to get to you.
MOVIE 2: The Hearse (George Bowers, 1980): This year at New Year’s Eve, this was the movie my father-in-law put on to watch while people drank around him. What a nihilistic pick and what a last memory of 2019, probably the last normal year we’ll have for a while. What is this, a Chuck Mitchell double feature? Yeah. It totally is. That said, this movie may move slow and didn’t fit in with the slasher world of 1980, but it’s still totally worth watching.
MOVIE 3: 9 Deaths of the Ninja(Emmett Alston, 1985): If this evening were just this movie shown four times in a row, you should be so lucky. I unabashedly adore this movie, a bonkers mix of martial arts, Brent Huff from Gwendoline and Sho Kosugi being Sho Kosugi. The opening James Bond ripoff credits should clue you in. This may be the best movie ever made.
MOVIE 4: Sextette(Ken Hughes, 1978): I debated ending this night with The Pink Angels, but I don’t think anyone likes that movie except for me. And while I usually seek to scorch the earth with the movies that I pick, I want more people to actually watch and enjoy this film, which I love in spite of how bad it is.
Want to know more about Crown International? Check out our week of their action films, starting with Kill Point. You can also check out the Letterboxd list of all their releases.
Please! Send us your night of movies! We’d love to see it!