Exploring: The Clones of the Fast & Furious

Back in early March, Universal Studios announced that the ninth Fast & Furious movie in the “Fast Saga,” officially titled F9, would be pushed back from its May 22, 2020, North American premiere to April 2, 2021. And where does that leave Fast & Furious X, which was originally slated for release in April 2021? Only the bat-born virus knows. . . .

Now, we can either curse the COVID-19 outbreak for delaying the double-F franchise . . . or we can embrace the furry-looking ball and dedicate our current home-bound status to explore the mockbuster universe of the Fast & Furious franchise.

And let’s face it: isn’t this all just Point Break . . . with cars instead of surf boards? And what I wanna know is: How is it that no producer ever approached Golden Earring to adapt their ’70s radio monument, “Radar Love,” the most epic car-driving song of all time — one that makes you floor it — into an F&F rip-off?

Hot Wheels image courtesy of Mattel/type by PicFont


Biker Boyz (2003)
Laurence Fishburne and Kid Rock . . . in a movie . . . together? Terrence Howard and Lisa Bonet? While that is a cast only Mark L. Lester could dream up, the movie around it isn’t up to the Mark L. Lester seal-of-B&S About Movies approval.

To sum it up: Instead of illegal street racing of cars, this is all about life, love, and the pursuit of asphalt in the world of underground motorcycle street racing.

Speed Demon (2003)
This F&F rip is a FUBAR’d movie-themed drink waiting to happen, one that Sam, the Drive Aslyum Movie Night head bartender couldn’t concoct . . . but our beloved David DeCoteau dared to mix. This one has it all: a soupçon of Nicolas Cage’s Drive Angry, a dash of Tarantino’s Death Proof . . . and a WHOLE BOTTLE of The Wraith . . . if Charlie Sheen kept caressing a pentagram and our beloved Sherilyn Fenn went full-on, sexy Goth-chick. Pour it over the ice from your Sergio Leone’s “Dollars Trilogy” themed-ice cube tray and shake. (And yes, if you know your DeCoteau: be ready for shirtless guys frolicking around a floor-etched pentagram in their underwear. And Matthew Jason Walsh is Decoteau nom de plumin’. )

To sum it up: A mysterious driver, i.e., a man with no name, in a muscle car (instead of a horse) — complete with a demonic hood ornament — shows up to extract vengeance in a small town.

Torque (2004)
Okay, so before you think this Ice Cube-fronted two-wheeler is a rip on the Laurence Fishburne one . . . this one was dreamed up by the production team of the Fast & Furious franchise. So the first one, Biker Boyz, is actually the knock-off of this one, got it? Oh, and instead of Lisa Bonet . . . you get Dane “I’m tryin’ to act over here” Cook.

To sum it up: A member of an illegal street racing-cum-biker gang is on the run after he’s framed for the murder of the brother of the gang’s leader. Oh, and bonus points for ripping off George Romero’s Knightriders with a sword-jousting scene that inspires us to watch Knightriders, again.

Redline (2007)
Tim Matheson? You can’t be that hard up for work that you have to play second banana to the clone of Chris Rock’s clone Chris Rucker, aka Eddie Griffin? Yet, there’s Eric “Otter” Stratton in this controversial box-office bomb that served as a pet-project of mortgage-lending magnate Daniel Sadek (who wrote and produced). For once Sadek was smart with his money: instead of contracting Cinema Vehicles to supply the film’s cars, he used his own personal, high-powered car collection of Enzos, Ferraris and Lamborghinis. (And Eddie Griffin wrecked one of them during the film’s premiere-promotional event. Nice job, Ed.)

To sum it up: High-rolling gamblers — instead of betting on the mutilation of people, ala Hostel — hedge their bets over the illegal racing of high-powered luxury supercars. And as with Torque: Thanks for making us go back and watch, again, the movie you pinched: Cannonball starring David Carradine.

Finish Line (2008)
If you’re in the market for a faux-fast fix . . . with a Scott Baio chaser, then this Spike (now known as the upper-cable tiered Paramount Network) channel clone is the shot you need. Is it cool to see the TV-loved Baio in the lead of a film — and as a heavy? Yep. Does it make the movie good? Nope.

To sum it up: A down-and-out stock car racer with NASCAR dreams takes a desperate-for-cash gig as a private mechanic for a millionaire importer, aka an illegal arms smuggler, aka Baio.


Street Racer (2008)
Okay, this one has no-named stars. And it’s produced by Asylum Studios. And it needs a shark-a-something. Or a tornado. Or a washed-up-’80s pop-princess thespin’. And, in an additional twist: this was made in the backwash of Warner Bros.’ abortive live-action take on the beloved ’60s cartoon, Speed Racer. So this is a double rip-off.

Can you imagine a kid asking their mom to pick up a copy of Speed Racer on her way home from work, and oblivious mom picks up “Street Racer,” and her kid is introduced to a world sans a Chim-Chim and plenty of hoochie mamas? Hey, that’s what Asylum counts on.

To sum it up: A street racer fresh out of prison for permanently crippling a kid during an illegal street racing accident . . . finds “redemption” by returning to the illegal street racing that put him in prison in the first place. For reals.

Death Racers (2008)
Yeah, we know this is more of a Death Race (2008) rip than a F&F rip . . . but when you have both the Insane Clown Posse and the WWE’s Raven in a movie, you skew the “Exploring” featurette “Rules of Submittal.” And yes, with that casting, when this appeared on the video shelf on September 23rd, 2008, to capitalize on the August 22 release of Death Race, we rented it, because, well, it’s not about the speed . . . it’s about the blood. And we thank you, Asylum.

To sum it up: In a dystopian future, contestants compete in a cross-country road race in which killing-for-points is part of the game.


200 MPH (2011)
All the Irish must go to hell for allowing parts of this Asylum Studios production to be shot in Donoughmore, County Cork — and with American actors, because, well, a cast with a heavy Irish brogue does not a mockbuster make. So blatant in its rip-offness, the film was released to VOD and DVD on April 26th, 2011, to capitalize on the release of Fast Five, which was released in the U.S. on April 29.

To sum it up: An amateur street racer goes “pro” after the death of his brother. Oh, and this one comes with very bad CGI-cars. A film that rips F&Fa movie about cars — that can’t afford real cars. For reals.

Drive (2011)
This Nicolas Winding Refn-directed film (The Neon Demon, Only God Forgives), based on the 2005 James Sallis novel of the same name, concerns a film stunt driver who sidelines as a criminal-for-hire getaway driver. The best reviewed of the F&F clones, it received a “Best Directors Award,” along with a standing ovation, at the Cannes Film Festival. And thanks for reminding me about my dad and I going to the big city six-plex to see Walter Hill’s (The Warriors, Streets of Fire) somewhat similar stunt driver-cum-criminal romp with Ryan O’Neal, 1978’s The Driver. And the stylish-darkness of Michael Mann’s Thief. Yes, Driver is that good . . . and then some.

To sum it up: When “The Driver” (Ryan Gosling) meets his new neighbor and grows close to her and her young son, he becomes involved in a robbery scheme with her just-released husband from prison and the caper goes violently south — in an extensional, Vanishing Point kind-a-of-way because the stoic “Driver” is an amalgamate of “The Driver” and “The Mechanic” from Two-Lane Blacktop.

Getaway (2013)
Selena Gomez is Anne Hathaway light: but inspires twice as much the hate. Perhaps if John Voight and Ethan Hawke’s costar was someone else? Or if Anne, instead of John, was the villain?

Nah.

The recipe for disaster: A custom Shelby Super Snake Mustang piloted by Hawke, a washed-up professional race car driver, is forced into committing a series of robberies to save his kidnapped wife. Oh, and Gomez is a sass-mouthed computer hacker (aren’t they all) with the goods on the guy forcing Hawke into a life of crime (I think). This tried to out-crash Gone in 60 Seconds — the old ’70s one, not the later Nic Cage one — by wrecking 130 cars, including 13 Shelby’s. (No way Shelby enthusiasts are allowing Shelbys to be destroyed for the sake of a movie — no more than lovers of the 1956 Porsche 356 Speedster would allow one to be trashed in Doc Hollywood (1991) — and no more than anyone would stand back and watch Stallone’s 1950 Mercury Monterey Coupe from Cobra go to the junkyard. They’re replicas. They had to be, right?)

Need for Speed (2014)
I totally dig Aaron Paul. He was pure gold in AMC-TV’s Breaking Bad and beyond deserving to be bumped to a leading-man theatrical career — and be the next Woody Harrelson and not the next David Caruso. But, as with most unknown actors who score a role on a mega-hit TV series, Need for Speed is another case of another too-much-too-soon actor taking the lead role in the wrong movie at the wrong time — and when the movie tanks, the studio and producers walk away and the actor, who’s not to blame, takes the fall. This one has the budget and cast missing from all of the other films on this list to make it “work”: the always welcomed-quality of Dominic Cooper and Rami Malek, Imogen Poots and Dakota Johnson . . . and Michael Keaton.

To sum it up: Hey, wait a minute! Did this rip-off Street Racer? Nah, sounds more like Torque: Custom-car builder and underground racer Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) is fresh out of prison for a murder he did not commit, natch. His redemption lies in stealing back his old shop’s most-prized ride and enter the infamous, high-stakes race known as The DeLeon. Hey, what the hell? That sounds like Redline. But we thank you for reminding us of Mark Hamill stealing back the ‘Vette he built in Corvette Summer.

Overdrive (2017)
This time, instead of Ireland, the French are in cahoots with Belgium to Shanghai Scott Eastwood, yes, the son of Clint, in a rip-off of Gone in 60 Seconds — and not the Tarantino-loved ’70s original: the other one with the ‘Cage that had nothing-to-do with the original car-wreckin’ classic. Oh, and this is from the writers of 2 Fast 2 Furious and the director of Taken, so this is, while a “clone,” a high quality film — and meant more for the Euro-market than the U.S. market.

To sum it up: A crime lord blackmails two brothers to steal a cache of luxury rides and supercars from his crime lord rival. Hey, at least Scott got to trade thespin’ chops with Kurt Russell in The Fate of the Furious.

Fast & the Fierce (2017)
Remember, in our opening salvo, we joked that all of this F&F tomfoolery is just Point Break with cars instead of surf boards? Well, the Asylum got tired of that formula and dipped into Keanu Reeves’s Speed this time . . . which is just Die Hard on a bus . . . but I digress. At least this F&F take-off is aware that, when it comes to enticing us into renting a mockbuster, it’s all about the casting: having our favorite champion of “The Quickening,” Adrian Paul, and Dominique Swain, helps. Well, not really. There’s no cars in this movie and way too much plane (damn you to hell, Asylum art department!). So this is more Turbulence — remember that one with Ray Liotta? — than Fast and Furious with Vin.

To sum it up: Terrorists plant a bomb on a commercial flight and the passengers must keep the plane in the air: for if it drops below 800 feet, the bomb goes off.

Fast & Fierce: Death Race (2020)
We think it’s a sequel . . . sorry, no Adrian Paul and Dominique Swain this time. But you do get DMX supporting Michael DeVorzon, the acting-son of Grammy winning and Academy Award-nominated songwriter, composer Barry DeVorzon (The Warriors!)

Mike is Jack Tyson, another illegal Mexico-to-California street racer who rescues a woman from her abusive gangster boyfriend — the same gangster who’s financing the cross-country road race. Oh, and she has a USB drive with all of her ex-hubby’s business dealings. A woman scorned. . . .

So wraps our “Fast and Furious” tribute week. Save us the aisle seat on April 2, 2021 . . . provided we’re not fighting off apoc-punk warloads with spiked baseball bats, hopin’ for Mark Gregory and Michael Sopkiw to show up and save us from the Euracs, by then.

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

Exploring: John Saxon

Born Carmine Orrico on August 5, 1936 and sadly departing this Earth just a few days ago, John Saxon is my favorite actor of all time. This isn’t hyperbole. This is fact, as Saxon unites nearly every one of my favorite film genres. You can always count on him to deliver the goods, no matter how small the movie gets.

The son of a Brooklyn dock worker, Saxon studied under Stella Adler and was originally set to be a matinee idol. How did that happen? Agent Henry Willson saw Saxon’s picture on the cover of a detective magazine and at the age of 17, he had a new name and was making $150 a week from Universal Studios.

After eighteen months of waiting, Saxon played alongside Mamie Van Doren in Running Wild (he appeared in uncredited roles in It Could Happen to You and the 1954 version of A Star Is Born). After The Unguarded Moment, where he is set up as the supposed stalker of Esther Willaims, he got a raise to $225 a year.

After Rock, Pretty Baby and its sequel, Summer Love, he lived up to the promise of being a star for the teenage girls. He starred opposite Sandra Dee in This Happy Feeling and The Reluctant Deubtante before finding his heart in character roles, starting in John Huston’s 1960 film The Unforgiven.

In 1962, Saxon made his first movie in Italy, a country he would return to throughout his career. A year later, he would appear in Mario Bava’s nascent giallo The Girl Who Knew Too Much, then globetrot back and forth, making The Cardinal for Otto Preminger (the movie that destroyed The Other author Tom Tryon) in Hollywood, The Ravagers in the Philippines, Night Caller from Outer Space in England and then went back to La La Land to make Queen of Blood. Heck, he even went to Bollywood before anyone knew what that was to make 1978’s Shalimar with Rex Harrison and Sylvia Miles (The SentinelThe Funhouse).

You can say that Saxon’s movies got smaller here, but for me, his roles from the late 60’s on define so many of the movies of my life. There’s Saxon as Mr. Roper, the gaijin ass-kicker alongside Bruce Lee in the movie that broke him in America, Enter the Dragon. Here he is in Italian Westerns like One Dollar Too Many. Giallo? He’s in Strange Shadows In An Empty Room and Tenebre, two of the best there are (well, Shadows is a weird mix of all kinds of movies in one). Slashers? He’s in one of the very first, Black Christmas.

Saxon is a dependable cop or crook in movies like Special Cop in ActionViolent Naples, hell even Mitchell.

I grew up on John Saxon. He was all over my television, whether he was beating up The Six-Million Dollar Man (he even got a toy made of his character Day of the Robot character, which was called Maskatron instead of Major Frederick Sloan; he also played Nedlick, the alien who got Steve Austin to battle Bigfoot), as a vampire fighting Starsky & Hutch, getting on The A-Team twice, being on both Falcon Crest and Dynasty and even being part of a whole series of Gene Roddenberry TV movies.

The first time I realized that Saxon was the same actor I loved in so many movies was when he played Sandor in Battle Beyond the Stars, a movie that dominated the daydreams of my pre-teen years.

Then came the role most people of my generation know him for, Lt. Donald Thompson in the A Nightmare on Elm Street films (he’s in the first, the third and appears as himself in Wes Craven’s New Nightmare.

Here are a few more of my favorite Saxon roles. Do yourself a favor and check them out.

Moonshine County Express: Gus Trikonis — who directed The Sidehackers — case Saxon as a karate fighting, moonshine running race card driver battling William Conrad alongside Susan Howard, Maurine “Marcia Brady” McCormick and the absolutely perfect Claudia Jennings.

The Bees: Yes, the same maniac that made Demonoid, Alfredo Zacarías, cast Saxon alongside John Carradine, Angel “The Teacher” Tompkins and Claudio Brook — yes, Simon of the Desert — in a war against killer bees.

Fast Company: Sure, you’re ready for William Smith, Claudia Jennings and Saxon in a racing film. But are you ready for one directed by David Cronenberg?

The Glove: Ross Hagen — Rommel from the aforementioned The Sidehackers — directed this sheer slice of bizarre, as Saxon plays a detective trying to stop Roosevelt Grierfrom killing his old prison guards with a giant spiked glove. Bonus points for casting Keenan Wynn, Joanna Cassidy, Old Hollywood star Joan Blondell, Aldo Ray and Michael Pataki, making this an all-star cast in the way that I mean all-star. That is, only character actors that I obsess over.

Cannibal Apocalypse: Saxon plays Norman Hopper, a man bitten in Vietnam that brings home his cannibal curse, starting with a teenager that tries to seduce him. Antonio Margheriti brings the gore in this one.

Blood Beach: Jeffrey Bloom made Flowers In the Attic and several Columbo TV movies before this backward riff on Jaws. “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…you can’t get to it!” yelled the posters and Saxon. Burt Young and the always wonderful Marianna Hill answered the call of, well, whatever was under the shifting sands of an LA beach.

The Scorpion with Two Tails: Nearly ten years after he had the best four year run of giallo in the history of the genre, Sergio Martino made a new film for the form, featuring Saxon as an archeologist studying Etruscan graves. Originally made for Italian TV, it was instead shown in theaters.

Desire: Eddie Romero, the man who put the green into Blood Island, worked with Saxon in 1982 to make this movie where a young Filipino girl falls for a man who might be her father. Of course, maybe daddy is Mr. Saxon.

Prisoners of the Lost Universe: Everyone knows Terry Marcel from Hawk the Slayer, but he also made this film with Richard Hatch, Kay Lenz, some cavemen and the man who tries with all his might to make it watchable: John Saxon.

Hands of Steel: Working with Martino yet again, this movie would have been the death of Saxon had it not been for him being a stickler for Screen Actors Guild rules. He would only appear in scenes shot in Italy, as the U.S. part of the film was a non-union shoot. Otherwise, he would have died along with Claudio Cassinelli in the tragic helicopter crash that marred this film. That said — I still love this strange little movie, an oddball potluck mix-up of Over the TopRambo: First Blood Part II and The Terminator. Also: the main character’s name is Paco Queruak.

Zombie Death House: Directed by the man himself, starring his Tenebre co-star Anthony Franciosa and combining the zombie, prison and mobster genres all into one film, this movie would be so much better had it a decent budget and more than nine days of shooting. I would have loved to have seen what else Saxon could have done.

My Mom’s a Werewolf: A rare comedy turn for Saxon finds him playing Harry Thropen, a mysterious pet store owner who turns Susan Blakely into a suburban lycanthropicMILF. I really think that my insanity cast this film, which has John Schuck, Diana Barrows, Marilyn McCoo and Ruth Buzzi all chewing up the scenery as if they’re doing dinner theater at the Slaughtered Lamb.

Nightmare Beach: Umberto Lenzi may have disavowed this film, seeing it as an inferior remake of his Seven Blood-Stained Orchids, but I absolutely love every single moment of this film, which has Saxon cast against type as a bad cop battling a biker back from the grave who has a chopper with an electric chair on the back of it.

Blood Salvage: Saxon plays a dad who should have just stayed home instead of taking his family on a backwoods vacation.

From Dusk Till Dawn: When you get rich and famous like Tarantino and Rodriguez, you can either cast your films with A-list talent, use your favorite grindhouse performers or just do all of the above. Here, Harvey Keitel, Salma Hayek, Juliette Lewis and George Clooney share screen time with Michael Parks, Tom Savini, Fred Williamson, Marc Lawrence and Saxon.

Saxon also appeared in everything from major Hollywood movies like Beverly Hills Cop III to VHS era-stuff like The ArrivalHellmaster and a late model 1993 Italian Western  I’ve become obsessed with finding: called Jonathan of the Bears. Directed by Enzo G. Castellari, it co-starred Bobby Rhodes, Franco Nero, David Hess and Andy Sidaris’ best villain, Rodrigo Obregón.

Television was also another home for the star, seeing him appear five times on Gunsmoke, six times on Fantasy Island, three times on Murder, She Wrote and in the TV movies Winchester ’73, Istanbul Express, The Intruders and many more, including the Dario Argento-directed episode of Showtime’s Masters of Horror.

Perhaps the strangest Saxon story is that he wanted to write an Elm Street sequel called How the Nightmare Began which was all about how therapist Frederick Krueger was wrongly blamed for a series of murders that were really committed by the Manson Family. The script sold on eBay a while back and I wish that it was really a movie.

A lifelong liberal Democrat, a Black Belt, a former Coney Island archery game carnie and a man who was still acting until the last few years of his life, including appearing as the villain of a Tarantino-directed episode of CSI.

Saxon has so many roles that I’ve neglected at least a few of them. But that’s the beauty of a career this rich. There’s always something new to discover.

I found out Saxon died as I sat at the drive-in and it brought a tear to my eye. Do me a favor and pay tribute to the man by watching one of his films as soon as possible.

Exploring Giallo

Most horror film aficionados believe the American slasher film cycle of the early eighties birthed with John Carpenter’s 1978 horror classic Halloween*. In reality: slasher films got their start in Italy with a literary format known as Giallo or “Yellow” in the Italian vernacular.

Inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson’s 126-paged novella horror classic (The Strange Case of) Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, small literary houses in Italy churned out their Giallo variant: a cost-effective format of reading entertainment intended for male readers—considering most of the psychologically damaged antagonist’s victims were female—who eschewed cheaply-produced romance novels with splashy, sexy-gaudy covers enamored by the women in their lives. These Italian paperbacks were produced by small literary houses that kept their printing costs down by binding the books in universal, unadorned yellow covers with simple, black-lettered titles that readers could easily stuff the ironically blood red-soaked tales in their jeans’ back pocket for easy, portable reading.

While the names of Dario Argento and Mario Bava are bantered about as the fathers of giallo, the true father—well, grandfather—is Edgar Wallace. Huh? The British-born writer who wrote the screenplay for 1933’s King Kong?

It’s true. The ex-army press corps and London’s Daily Mail scribe moved into novels and became the “King of the Thrillers” by grinding out 957 short stories, 170 novels, and 18 stage plays—many of which he riffed as a secretary dictated them. Many times, he worked on as many as three books at once.

Sadly, as with the prolific Phillip K. Dick, Wallace’s greatest fame was posthumous (he died in 1932). While alive, his first film adaptation was The Man Who Bought London (1916), and those adaptations hit fever pitch in the ‘60s with the forty-seven films of the Edgar Wallace Mysteries series.

Wallace’s new found fame—and on his way to becoming a Giallo inspiration—began when the Danish production company Rialto Film co-produced with the German film market, 1959’s Der Frosch mit der Maske (aka The Face of the Frog) which started the krimi genre (abbreviation for the German term “Kriminalfilm”). Krimis—like the later Giallo films they inspired, were hyper-noir films, replete with zooming cameras and lurid, masked supervillains. And many of Wallace’s novels sported those cheap yellow covers that gave our beloved, pre-slasher ‘80s films their name—giallo.

What are some of the Wallace novel-to-screen giallo adaptations you might have seen? Well, there’s Massimo Dallamono’s What Have You Done to Solange? (1972), Jess Franco’s Night of the Skull (1974), Riccardo Freda’s Double Face (1969), Umberto Lenzi’s Seven Blood Stained Orchids (1971), and Duccio Tessari’s The Blood Stained Butterfly—all are Wallace novel adaptations.

Courtesy of GaiusMarius157BC/Reddit

Giallos offered European readers sexually-inspired gore stories that caused the fans of the suggestive, atmospheric horror films produced by Britain’s Amicus and Hammer Studios to flinch—and Stevenson, along with noted Gothic horror authors Sheridan Le Fanu, Gaston LeRoux, and Guy de Mausspaunt to roll over in their graves. Giallos—filled with quaint, occasional reader-acceptable typos by way of underpaid and overworked editors and proof readers—were well-written, suspenseful and engaging tales (the “content” is the key) that Sheridan Le Fanu probably wanted to include in his influential, short-story collection In a Glass, Darkly (featuring the vampire classic “Carmella”) and realized he had to rein his imagination or be judged by a puritanical, elitist lynch mob for writing “filth.”

It was those yellow-bound books that inspired the spaghetti-horror (pasta-horror) cycle spearheaded by Mario Bava** with 1971’s Twitch of the Death Nerve (aka Bay of Blood) and Dario Argento+, who became the maestro of Italian Giallo films with 1970’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. (Watch Carpenter’s Halloween, Sean S. Cunningham’s Friday the 13th, and Brian DePalma’s Dressed to Kill—and compare to Bava’s and Argento’s work: especially look for the similarities of Bava’s Twitch of the Death Nerve vs. Friday the 13th).

Produced for a reported $350,000 John Carpenter’s classic grossed an estimated $80 million dollars in worldwide box office during its initial release. Initially dumped into the U.S drive-in market to make a quick buck, the fluke blockbuster status of the film inspired mainstream Hollywood to jump on the yellow-painted bandwagon with 1980’s Friday the 13th and 1984’s A Nightmare on Elm Street++.

As fate would have it, the John Carpenter-inspired slasher film cycle coincided with the introduction of a contraption known as a VCR that played something called a VHS tape—and that hunk of analog electronics transitioned the slasher film genre from America’s outdoor drive-ins and onto the shelves of the burgeoning U.S home video market. Slasher films—affectionately referred to as “boobs and blades” for their concentrations on well-endowed, giggly women and the shiny, sharp objects that stabbed them—were cheap and easy to produce and the worldwide film markets were hot for product. Returns on a film’s investment produced under the “boobs and blades” banner were guaranteed. The films became the number one way for a newbie actor or writer, budding director or producer to get into the film business.

Courtesy of heliosphan/Picclick.com

At the same time those direct-to-video “boobs and blades” knock offs started flying off the video store shelves, a new form of heavy metal birthed in Britain in the late seventies—dubbed by Sounds magazine as “The New Wave of British Heavy Metal” (NWOBHM). Featuring the violent, religious mania and bloody lyrics composed by the likes of Venom and Iron Maiden, complete with the requisite Satanic imagery on the album covers, slasher films and heavy metal music were a match made in hell: the music coming out of England was, in fact, Giallo musicals. This music-inspired slasher sub-genre even got its own name: metalsploitation*+, which featured other beloved so-bad-they’re-good bloody analog tales showcasing the exploitive titles of Black Roses, Shock ’em Dead, Terror on Tour, Rock ’n’ Roll Nightmare, Hard Rock Zombies, and Rocktober Blood. The genre peaked—and quickly burnt out—when the major studios took a slice of the metalsploitation pie with 1986’s big-budgeted Trick or Treat.

However, before the glut of heavy-metal horror films hit the video store shelves, Paul Williams and Brian DePalma composed a campy, 1974 rock ’n’ roll giallo-inspired reboot of Hammer Studios’ 1962 film version of The Phantom of the Opera (based on Gaston LeRoux’s novel). Somewhat similar to 1975’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show in the camp ’n’ rock department, Phantom of the Paradise featured an emotionally damaged musician, Winslow Leech, who rains vengeance on the narrow-minded fools who stole his music and ruined his career. An emotionally damaged antagonist out for revenge who wears a mask? It’s pure giallo. The only difference is that poor Winslow isn’t concealed behind POV black gloves.

Giallo pulp novels image courtesy of Casey Broadwater/Flickr with banner by R.D Francis/PicFont

Needless to say, the giallo cycle was misunderstood by mainstream America, with the genre’s mixtures of murder and the supernatural rated as “style over substance” and “lacking in narrative logic.”

Well, that’s was always the point, Mr. Mainstream critic. (That and if the friggin’ puritanical U.S. distributors didn’t chop and slice the Italian and Spanish imports into incomprehensible messes.)

Italian Giallos—or any of the Spanish variants—of the ‘70s always eschewed “realism” and “substance” over what were always the main priorities of the giallo genre: art and surrealism rooted in Impressionism and Renaissance art.

The giallo resume of Dario Argento, the leader of the genre, is the cinematic equivalent of Salvador Dali’s melting clocks and M.C Esher’s impossible objects and staircases to nowhere. Giallo is all about the utilization of oozing color palates and oddball light sources, nonsensical supernatural red-herrings to nowhere, psychic links to killers hidden in POV, whispered poetic passages, hypersexual oddball red-herring characters, rape and murdered moms, junk science (about sunspots, Y chromosomes, eye-memories, love-chemicals), pedophile fathers, doctors and detectives riddled with kinks and ulterior motives, and a general, overall incoherency (even before U.S. distributors got their hands on ’em) set to a soundtrack of jazz-rock noodling and chanting choirs.

The whole point of Paolo Cavara’s Black Belly of the Tarantula and Sergio Martino’s The Case of the Scorpion’s Tale—and every bloody tale concerned with insects and animals—is for you, the viewer, to have a series of “WTF” moments. Giallos are crime capers, that is, film noirs+* (see the classics A Double Life, Black Angel, Double Indemity, Fairwell, My Lovely, My Name is Julia Ross, The Possessed, So Dark the Night, Sorry, Wrong Number) with the violence in full living-dead color, along with a dash of the supernatural tossed in for good measure.

Noir/detective paperbacks image courtesy of rubysresaleofrhodeisland/eBay

In Double Indemnity, when Fred MacMurray pops up from behind the car’s backseat and strangles the husband of Phyliss Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck), the camera pulls back and frames on her satisfied face as her husband gags to death off frame (and we can imagine what expression is across MacMurray’s face). That’s film noir. In a giallo, the eye-buldging strangulation is in full frame. In film noir, the sex—via editing and cinematography—is implied. In a giallo, it’s on camera—and, in most cases, only one person walks away unslashed from the encounter.

Actor Tony Musante’s vacationing American writer Sam Dalmas and Michael Brandon’s rock drummer Roberto Tobias, in the respective films The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and Four Files on Grey Velvet, have everything in common with William Holden’s Joe Gillis in Sunset Blvd., Fred MacMurray’s pasty of Walter Neff in Double Indemnity, and John Garfield’s Frank Chambers in The Postman Always Rings Twice. Each are somewhat well-intentioned, yet flawed individuals. The only difference is the film noir schlubs of the latter films don’t end up in a Dario Argento what-the-fuck giallo plot twist of an intelligent chimp wielding a straight razor and having to rescue a cute girl with psychic links to insects (Phenomena, for those of you wondering what in-the-hell am I talking about).

Of course, as Sam, the bossman at B&S About Movies pointed out, we have Mario Bava to thank with his black-and-white, 1963 neo-noir The Girl Who Knew Too Much and its introductions of giallo conventions serving as the progenitor for the genre. Then Bava sealed the deal with his next film, the 1964 color-shot Blood and Black Lace, which introduced all the high fashion, shocking color-palate gore, and psychosexual encounters missing from the likes of the black and white film noir classics, such as Double Indemnity and Sorry, Wrong Number, which inspired Bava’s The Girl Who Knew Too Much.

So the next time you fire up The Conjuring or Happy Death Day, or any of the endless cycle of sequel-prequels-sidequels of the Blumhouse universe variety, just remember those are the digital copies of the original celluloids by Dario Argento (Deep Red, Suspiria), Mario Bava (Hatchet for the Honeymoon), Paolo Cavara, Ruggero Deodato (Phantom of Death), Riccardo Freda (The Ghost, The Iguana with the Tounge of Fire), Lucio Fulci (Don’t Torture a Duckling), Umberto Lenzi (Seven Blood Stained Orchids), and Sergio Martino (The Case of the Bloody Iris, All the Colors of the Dark, The Strange Case of Mrs. Wardh, Torso, Your Vice is a Locked Door and Only I Have the Key)—the Italian forefathers that birthed the jump-scares oeuvre of today’s digital divide in the first place.

But even I have to admit that no matter how much I enjoy the films of those Italian filmmakers, I am burnt out on them. But I love the era and adore the genre and I want more . . . but my yellow has turned to brown.

Thankfully, there’s a new crop of young turks keeping the genre alive, birthing a new genre: neo-giallo—or what I like to call “giallo impressionism.”

Now I inhale the new, yellow hues of Amer (and Let the Corpses Tan, The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears) by Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani, The App by Elisa Fuksas, Mitzi Peirone’s Braid, Sam Bennett’s Dark Sister, The Editor by Adam Brooks, Marco Rosson’s Evil River, the Argentinian Onetti Brothers with Francesca (and Abrakadabra, Deep SleepWhat the Waters Left Behind), Graham Denham’s Greenlight, Matthew Diebler and Jacob Gillman’s The Invisible Mother, Mandy (and Beyond the Black Rainbow) by Panos Cosmatos, Tommy Faircloth’s A Nun’s Curse, Under the Silver Lake by David Robert Mitchell, and Vahagn Karapetyan’s Greek-twist, Wicca Book.

So, embrace the yellow leaking out of Kevin V. Jones across the marbled floors of Morningside, ye children of the night! Fill your goblets, for tonight, we dine by the plasma’s streaming glow. And it forever glows yellow and in all the primary colors of the dark. “Die Hard!”

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


Here’s the complete list of all the film’s we reviewed for our week of Giallo films from June 14 to June 20:

Abrakadabra
Anquish
Arabella The Black Angel
Blackaria
A Black Veil for Lisa
The Bloodstained Butterfly
Blue Steel
The Cauldron of Death
Damned in Venice
Death Knocks Twice
Death Steps in the Dark
Deep Sleep
Domino
Double Face
Dumplings
Eyes of Crystal
Fashion Crimes
Fatal Frames
The French Sex Murders
A Girl in Room 2A
The House of Good Returns
An Ideal Place to Kill
Interrabang
The Killer is One of 13
The Killer Is Still Among Us
Killing of the Flesh
Knife of Ice
Knife Under the Throat
Nothing Underneath
Nude, She Dies
A Quiet Place to Kill
Red Nights
Reflections in Black
Screaming Mimi
Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eye
Seven Notes of Terror
Slaughter Hotel
So Sweet . . . So Perverse
Symptoms
Tango
To Agistri
Trauma
Tulpa
Weekend Murders
What the Waters Left Behind

And here’s some more reviews from the past:
Autopsy
The Blood Stained Shadow
Body Count
Death Smiles on a Murderer
Die Screaming, Marianne
The Embalmer
Eyeball
Five Dolls for an August Moon
Footprints on the Moon
Lizard in a Woman Skin
Maniac Mansion
Murder Obsession
My Dear Killer
The Night Child
The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave
Orgasmo
The Perfume of the Lady in Black

Perversion Story
Pensione Paura

The Red Queen Kills Seven Times
Short Night of Glass Dolls
Spasmo
Strip Nude for Your Killer
Who Saw Her Die

And if our written documents of the giallo era isn’t enough to quench your psychosexual bloodlust, then be sure to check out the 2019 giallo documentary All the Colors of Giallo.

* Be sure to read our explorations of the Halloween franchise with “Watch the Series: Halloween” and “Ten Slashers to Watch Instead of Halloween.”

** Be sure to read our exploration on The Maestro Bava with our “Ten Bava Films” and and “Bava Week.”

+ Be sure to read ourexplorationn of The Maestro Argento with our “Ten Dario Argento Films.”

++ Be sure to read our exploration of the ongoing influence of Freddy with “Ten Movies that Totally Ripped Off A Nightmare on Elm Street.”

*+ Be sure to examine our “No False Metal” week of films.

+* We go a bit deeper on the film noir cycle with our recent reviews of Don Okolo’s neo-noir Lone Star Deception, along with the radio romps Dead Air and Power 98.

Oh, and finally: Be sure to visit with our Giallo Drive In Friday featurette, “Black Gloves Required.”

Exploring: Andy Sidaris

Starting with 1973’s Stacey and 1979’s Seven, the former director of ABC’s Wide World of Sports and innovator of instant replay, slow-motion replay and split-screen views created a world of men that can’t shoot straight and gorgeous female agents.

He called his movies b-movies, not because they were lower in quality, but because he filled them with what he referred to as “Bullets, Bombs and Babes (or Boobs).”

Here’s a brief overview and a link to these films, so that you can start watching them for yourself. Get ready to fall in love with the ladies of L.E.T.H.A.L. (Legion to Ensure Total Harmony and Law).

Stacey (1973): Stacey Hanson (Anne Randall, May 1967 Playboy Playmate of the Month) is hired by a rich woman to learn whether or not her family members are worthy of being in her will, with two of them being Anitra Ford from Messiah of Evil and Cristina Raines from The Sentinel, who is in a Manson-esque cult. This movie is pretty much the same exact story that Andy would perfect in Malibu Express. It’s not available on blu ray — yet.

Seven (1979):  Andy was still figuring out his formula, but William Smith makes this movie way better than you even think it can be, assembling a team of killers to fight the man who was Luca Brasi. At least two people get killed in two different scenes with a rocket launcher, so you know it’s good. You can get this on blu ray from Kino Lorber.

Malibu Express (1985): This movie was legendary in middle school, a late night cable staple that delivers everything that 14-year old boys want: death, destruction and d cups. Cody Abilene battles Russian hackers when he isn’t shacking up with every single woman from Texas to Miami. Seriously, he makes Bond look chaste. That said, Bond never had a Sybil Danning in his life. You can get this on blu ray from Mill Creek Entertainment.

Hard Ticket to Hawaii (1987): Special agents Donna (Dona Speir, Playboy Playmate of the Month, March 1984, in the first of her many Andy Sidaris movie appearances) and Taryn (Playboy Playmate of the Month for July 1985 Hope Marie Carlton) take on a case with stolen diamonds and a toxic snake, as well as a skateboarding killer with a deadly blow-up doll. Also: someone gets killed with a frisbee. This movie is everything perfect about watching a movie at 3:19 AM with a beer in hand. Grab the blu ray from Mill Creek Entertainment.

Picasso Trigger (1988): Secret agents, a cane that shoots both shotgun and mortar rounds, exploding boomerangs and RC cars, and more showers — solo and co-ed — than anyone has ever taken in the history of man, all captured in just 99 minutes. It’s also the first appearance of series villain Rodrigo Obregon! You can get the blu ray of this from Mill Creek.

Savage Beach (1989): Dona and Taryn are back again, this time flying missions as federal drug enforcement agents. However, they soon find themselves at odds with evil agents who are looking for a sunken ship from World War II loaded with gold. You can get this from Mill Creek.

Guns (1990): You can see the James Bond influence immediately with this poster! A brutal murder in Las Vegas starts off this adventure, which brings in new villain Juan “Jack of Diamonds” Degas, played by Erik Estrada. Also: ninjas! You can get this blu ray from Mill Creek Entertainment.

Do or Die (1991): Pat Morita, Mr. Miyagi himself, is Masakana “Kane” Kaneshiro, who kidnaps Donna and Nicole Justin (Roberta Vasquez). Instead of just killing them off, he sends the world’s greatest killers after them. If you ever wanted to see Morita in a love scene, this is the movie for you. Buy the blu ray from Mill Creek Entertainment.

Hard Hunted (1993): Rodrigo Obregon is back again, taking advantage of an amnesiac Donna. And guess what — R.J. Moore, son of James Bond’s Roger Moore — is in this as bad guy Kane! Meanwhile, Raven (Al Leong!) is anothe rbad guy causing chaos. You can also get this from Mill Creek.

Fit to Kill (1993): Kane is back, as he’s just one of the bad guys out to steal a massive diamond liberated from Russia at the end of World War II. Rodrigo Obregon also comes back as yet another bad guy, but at least he has Julie Strain as Blu Steele, a new and dangerous henchwoman for the ladies to battle. This is Donna’s last movie, sadly, but it’s a totally great time. The new blu ray reissue is available from Mill Creek.

Enemy Gold (1993): Rodrigo Obregon as Santiago and Julie Strain as Jewel Pather are the villains in this movie, which was seen as a whole new start to the Sidaris Universe after the last film. This one was directed by Andy’s son Drew. Mill Creek has this on blu ray.

The Dallas Connection (1994): Spies, lies and thighs! What a tagline! This movie has more outright sex than other Sidaris films and Julie Strain finally being a heroine, which is pretty much everything anyone watching these on cable wanted. You can get this from, you knew it, Mill Creek.

Day of the Warrior (1996): Julie Strain finally plays one of the good guys and she definitely excels at being in charge. She’s joined by Julie K. Smith as the masked Cobra, Shae Marks as Tiger and former WCW wrestler Marcus Alexander Bagwell. Mill Creek is getting ready to release this as well.

L.E.T.H.A.L. Ladies: Return to Savage Beach (1998): Ninja fights, remote controlled cars with bombs and lots of sex in waterfalls? Yes, but also the chance to flash back to the past adventures on Savage Beach and Carrie Westcott (Playboy Playmate of the Month, September 1993) as a rollerblading bad girl who serves knockout pizza to an entire L.E.T.H.A.L. safehouse. Get the complete set and get this from Mill Creek.

If you want all of the movies in one DVD set, I recommend the Girls, Guns and G-Strings set. It’s inexpensive way to all of the movies.

Mill Creek’s Movie Spree also has the first six movies available in a streaming package, if you’re not about physical media.

I truly love these movies and hope that you’ll take a chance on them. They may not be as sophisticated as a Bond film, but they’re packed with fun and humor. Despite the girls being so sexy, they’re never presented as anything less than deadly and incredibly capable.

If you want to know more, click any of the links for full reviews. We also published an interview with Andy’s wife Arlene, who produced the movies, and a list all about “Ten Things I Learned from Andy Sidaris Films.”

EXPLORING: Bond girls in giallo films

The world of the giallo — and of James Bond — are both filled with violence and gorgeous women. So is it really any wonder that there’s some level of crossover between the actresses in the films? Trust me: This article was really a pain to write.

Ursula Andress: The original Bond girl, Andress wowed audiences as Honey Ryder, emerging from the water with a bikini and knife. She’d go on to appear in the 1977 Steno-directed giallo Double Murder alongside Marcello Mastroianni and Peter Ustinov. If you’d like to see her in an Italian cannibal film, look no further than The Mountain of the Cannibal God.

Claudine AugerThe actress who played Dominique “Domino” Derval in Thunderball would go on to star in two giallo films: Black Belly of the Tarantula and Mario Bava’s slasher father A Bay of Blood.

Luciana Paluzzi: In Thunderball, she played Fiona Volpe, the henchwoman killed while dancing with Bond. She would go on to star in the Spanish-Italian giallo The Two Faces of Fear alongside George Hinton.

Barbara Bach: Bach woud play Anya Amasova in The Spy Who Loved Me, but before that, she was in Black Belly of the Tarantula and Short Night of Glass Dolls. On the non-giallo horror and science fiction sides of genre films, she also shows up in Sergio Martino’s Island of the Fishmen and Aldo Lado’s The Humanoid.

Caroline MunroWhile you can’t consider either of the Phibes films or Maniac giallo, I guess you can make an argument for Jess Franco’s Faceless. That said — anyone that complains about having to think about Ms. Munro — who played Naomi in The Spy Who Loved Me — is a moron.

Olga Bisera: Felicca gives her life to save Bond in The Spy Who Loved Me. Ms. Bisera is also in the giallo films A Whisper In the Dark and Eyes Behind the Wall.

Helena Ronee: After paying the Israeli member of Blofeld’s Angels of Death in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Ronee also shows up in Mario Bava’s (Five Dolls for an August Moon).

Corinne Cléry: Corinne Dufour was Hugo Drax’s personal pilot, who he eventually allowed his dogs to kill. As for the actress who played her, she’s in Plot of Fear, a 1976 giallo. She also shows up in two of my favorite strange films, Fulci’s The Devil’s Honey and Yor Hunter from the Future.

Tonia Sotiropoulou: This actress shows up as a lover of Bond in Skyfall, but she also makes plays Elena in Berberian Sound Studio, a movie set in the Italian film world of the 1970’s as the giallo The Equestrian Vortex is being filmed.

BONUS ROUND…

Barbara Bouchet: Although Casino Royale is not an official Bond film, the star of giallo such as The Man With the Icy EyesBlack Belly of the TarantulaAmuck!The Red Queen Kills Seven TimesDon’t Torture a Duckling and 2009’s Giallo plays Moneypenny. She’s also in the Eurospy movies Surabaya Conspiracy, Agent for H.A.R.M. and Danger Route.

Exploring: Dan Curtis

Dan Curtis may have started his TV career producing golf, but he became known for his horror-related projects throughout the 60’s and 70’s. It all began with Dark Shadows, a daily series that went from gothic romance to downright weirdness and then got even stranger before the end of its five-year run.

This is way too short of a space to get into all of the stories that took part on the show, but let’s summarize them as vampire, ghosts, a Phoenix, a werewolf, Dorian Gray, witches, time travel, reincarnation and even a series of episodes that took much of the cast to a parallel version of its universe, all tied together by lead vampire Barnabas Collins, who didn’t even show up until the show was already on for ten months.

You can still watch it online — beware there are 1,225 episodes — on  Amazon Prime, Hulu and Tubi.

As the show was still on the air in 1970, House of Dark Shadows played theaters, an incredibly gory and condensed version of the series. Yes, somehow hours upon hours of stories were all presented in one quick story. That said, the production values are well beyond the daily show and its a fun romp. There was a sequel after the show went off the air, Night of Dark Shadows, which moves away from the series somewhat while still remaining an entertaining — and actually frightening — film.

During Dark Shadows run and after it ended, Curtis began producing and directing a series of TV movies. Best known amongst them are the two movies feature Darren McGavin as Carl Kolchak. The Night Stalker, the first of these films, remained the top-rated made-for-TV movie for decades. Along with a second movie, The Night Strangler, and a TV series that Curtis did not work on, Kolchak influenced The X-Files and remains popular to this day.

There have been rumors of a theatrical movie being made from the original film, directed by Edgar Wright and starring Johnny Depp. It would be Depp’s second Curtis character, following him played Barnabas in the Dark Shadows reimagining.

Curtis would then make The Norliss Tapes, another attempt at a series where an investigative reporter chases after the occult. Sadly, it wasn’t turned into a series, but the film that resulted is quite good.

Over the rest of the 70’s, Curtis became the small screen’s main purveyor of the dark side, thanks to movies like Scream of the Wolf and a series of shorter features for ABC’s Wide World of Mystery like Come Die with Me, The Invasion of Carol Enders, Nightmare at 43 Hillcrest, and Shadow of Fear.

Curtis also took the time to create a series of classic horror stories that were shot on video. DraculaThe Turn of the Screw, The Picture of Dorian GrayFrankenstein and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde remain fun looks back at the television of my youth, marked with fantastic performances by Jack Palance.

If that was all Curtis did, he’d still be remembered. However, there is still more.

Burnt Offerings is an adaption of the Robert Marasco novel with Karen Black, Oliver Reed, Bette Davis and Lee Montgomery at odds with a house ready to devour all of their souls.

Curtis would work with Black again in perhaps one of the 1970’s best known TV movies, Trilogy of Terror. Across three stories, Black would be a seductress, a set of twins and a woman battling an ancient African doll out to kill her. It’s one of the best movies — not just TV movies — ever made and a true landmark of horror. A 1990’s sequel, Trilogy of Terror II, was made and while it’s not as good, it’s still interesting, as is another Curtis’s anthology movie, Dead of Night.

After several more TV movies — The Big EasyThe Long Days of Summer, When Every Day Was the Fourth of JulyCurse of the Black Widow — Curtis would embark on two gigantic epic mini-series, 1983’s The Winds of War and 1988’s War and Remembrance. It was one of the few times that Curtis would receive an award for his work, as the first series won an Emmy.

Curtis produced new takes on Dark Shadows in 1991 and 2005, as well as executive producing an abortive — and way too dark and gritty — reboot of Night Stalker in 2005.

Here’s the rest of Curtis’s film to enjoy: Alien Lover, A Darkness at Blaisedon, I Think I’m Having a Baby, In Advance of the Landing, and St. John in Exile. And there’s the 2007 Curtis career documentary, Master of Dark Shadows. Also be sure to check our feature on the Collinsports Historical Society.

Exploring: Radio Stations on Film

Although the American swing, jazz, big band, and country musicians of the twenties, thirties and forties starred or performed in comedic, suspense and dramatic films with musical plot lines set in nightclubs and radio stations — it was the year 1955 that set the stage: 1955 is the year that birthed rock ’n’ roll films.  The origins of those reels of musical celluloid trace back to Blackboard Jungle — the first film to feature rock ’n’ roll on the soundtrack, and the first film to make the correlation of juvenile delinquency as a byproduct of rock music.

The song featured in Blackboard Jungle, “Rock Around the Clock,” by Bill Haley and the Comets, holds the distinction as the first “rock song” featured in a Hollywood movie. When the song rose to #1 on the charts, it also became the inspiration for the first film to be scripted around a rock song: 1956s Rock Around the Clock; its success, in turn, spawned a quickly assembled sequel in Don’t Knock the Rock, released that same year.

Another influential film was James Dean’s second of his three films: Rebel Without a Cause. Released the same year as Blackboard Jungle, the film served as the blueprint for numerous rock ’n’ roll-based flicks throughout the years. In fact, it’s alleged Elvis Presley was in consideration for the Dean role; it was to serve as Elvis’s big-screen debut. Elvis, the “King of Rock ’n’ Roll”: the first musician to successfully combine county music and the blues of the American Southeast into a new form of music: Rock ’n’ Roll.

Elvis Presley’s first starring role in 1956’s Love Me Tender borrowed the marketing scheme of Bill Haley’s Rock Around the Clock: use the artist as the “star” and utilize their hit song as the title of a movie. And with that, any rock band with a hit song found themselves appearing in, or having films crafted around their group and songs. Just ask the members of Herman’s Hermits, the Dave Clark Five, Cliff Richard and the Shadows, and, of course, the Beatles.

However, the crafting of films around successful musicians — or creating dancing-and-swimming sing-a-long musicals starring Fred Astaire or Esther Williams — wasn’t born in 1955. The first musician on “sound” film was Al Jolson, who starred in 1927’s The Jazz Singer, the first feature-length, nationally distributed motion picture with talking sequences, music and sound effects. Movie goers could see and hear Al Jolson perform “Toot, Toot, Tootsie (Goo’ Bye),” “Blue Skies,” and “My Mammy.”

Country-western star Cindy Walker carved a prolific career not only in music, but in film as well. Cindy Walker holds the distinction of charting Top Ten hits in every decade — from the forties through the eighties. Cindy sold her first song, “Lone Star Trail,” to Bing Crosby in 1940, which lead to her own record deal with Decca Records. She soon found her songs recorded not only by Bing Crosby, but by Van Morrison, Willie Nelson, Roy Orbison, Kenny Rogers, and Elvis Presley. Her best known song, “You Don’t Know Me,” charted three times: first in 1956 for Eddie Arnold; in 1962 for Ray Charles, and again in 1981 for Mickey Gilley. Cindy’s music continues to exist into the 21st century, with the song’s most recent appearance in the Jodie Foster radio-set film, The Brave One.

As result of her writing 39 songs for producer Bob Willis’s western movies of the early-forties, Cindy transitioned into an acting career with the western musicals Ride Tenderfoot, Ride and Frontier Vengeance in 1940, 1942’s Bearcat Mountain Girl, and 1944’s Ti-Yi-Yippe-Aye, then made her final appearance in 1953’s Oil Town, U.S.A. Even one of the bands starring with Cindy in Oil Town, U.S.A, country-western legends Sons of the Pioneers, carved out a film career of their own — long before Billy Haley arrived in 1955 — beginning with 1935’s Slightly Static, up through 1951’s Fighting Coast Guard.

Another film that utilized chart-topping musicians and music as a plot device — long prior to the rock-movie craze initiated with Rock Around the Clock — was the 1943 comedy Reveille with Beverly. The film provides an early peek into the screen career of Frank Sinatra — before his rising to the Hollywood A-List with his star-making turn in 1953’s From Here to Eternity, which served as his acting debut.

In speaking of Frank Sinatra: Billy Haley and Elvis Presley would not have made the transition to film, and Elvis would not have had an acting career, if not for Mr. Sinatra blazing the trail. Mr. Sinatra first appeared on the silver screen as a member of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra/Band in 1941’s Las Vegas Nights and 1942’s Ship Ahoy. After earning his first screen credit as a solo artist with a music performance in Reveille with Beverly, he moved onto his now classic roles in From Here to Eternity, Von Ryan’s Express, and Ocean’s Eleven.

An interesting point on Reveille with Beverly: the setting inside a radio station also served as the plotline utilized in numerous, early rock ’n’ roll films. The film stars noted dancer and singer Ann Miller (the Madonna/Britney Spears of the day) as disc jockey “Beverly Ross,” who cons her way into a gig at a military radio station charged with entertaining the troops. While there, she organizes a big band/swing show with performances by some of radio’s biggest stars of the day: Frank Sinatra, Freddy Slack and his Orchestra, Duke Ellington, the Mills Brothers, and Count Basie.

America’s fascination with the radio not only provided Hollywood with a plot device for films; the “voices” of the radio also transitioned to the silver screen. Prior to the radio careers of disc jockey Alan Freed in the fifties, Wolfman Jack (The Midnight Hour) and Casey Kasem (The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant) in the sixties, and Rick Dees (The Gladiator) in the seventies transitioning from behind the microphone to the front of the camera, Hollywood made an actor out of legendary Los Angeles radio personality Fred Crane.

Best known for his cameo appearance as one of Scarlett O’Hara’s beaus in the 1939 classic Gone with the Wind, it is Fred Crane’s voice that opens the film with the line: “What do we care if we were expelled from college, Scarlett? The war is going to start any day now.”

Crane began his radio broadcasting career as the staff announcer for Jack Benny’s radio program on the NBC Radio Network. In 1946, Crane began his prolific radio career in Southern California on 1330 AM KFAC Classical Radio. He remained with the station, placing frequently in the Top Five for drive-time ratings, until the station’s demise in 1988. During his 40-plus years on KFAC, he segued into a television acting career with the series Hawaiian Eye, The Lawman, Lost in Space, 77 Sunset Strip, Surfside 6, The Twilight Zone, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, and was a regular on General Hospital in the seventies. His film roles include 1949’s The Gay Amigo, and a co-starring role as the henchman “Duke” in the theatrical version of the hit TV Western, The Cisco Kid.

As with the films of the fifties, the musically-plotted films dating to the thirties and forties served as showcases for the current music stars of the day. These progenitors to the rock ’n’ roll films of the fifties also padded their short running times with concert clips and/or on-screen performances, due to the film’s lack of a real script or plot.

Film was the perfect medium; a marketing tool in a world not yet exposed to today’s multi-channel universe of cable television and Internet-based marketing. Television was not a necessity of the masses; it was a luxury not afforded to every household in America. The same goes for the attendance of music concerts. The most cost-effective and affordable entertainment to the masses was the local movie house or drive-in theater (and that portable radio perched on the top of your grandmother’s refrigerator or that transistor radio in your pocket); both served as the only way many Americans could see their favorite music stars of the radio perform — in person.

There’s a LOT of radio station-based films and this list of recent B&S About Movies reviews only scratches the surface.

Airheads (1994)
Bad Channels (1992)
A Cry for Help (1975)
Dark Signal (2016)
Dead Air (1994)
Dead Air (2009)
Don’t Answer the Phone (1980)
FM (1978)
Incident at Channel Q (1986)
Karn Evil 9 (202?)
Loqueesha (2019)
The Lords of Salem (2013)
Martin (1977)
A Matter of Degrees (1990)
Mayor of the Sunset Strip (2003)
Melinda (1972)
Midnight FM (2010)
The Night Caller (1998)
Night Owl (1993)
Night Rhythms (1992)
Open House (1987)
Outside Ozona (1998)
Play Misty for Me (1971)
Power 98 (1996)
Radioland Murders (1994)
Radio Silence (2012)
Radio Silence (2019)
Redneck Miller (1976)
Shattered Illusions (1998)
Straight Talk (1992)
Times Square (1980)
Zoo Radio (1990)

If I had all the time in the world, I’d write up more detailed essays on more of the films from the industry that I love. So, here are a few quick ones.

Airheads (1994)

Dog Day Afternoon goes rock. Only this time, instead of a bank, it’s a radio station as three aspiring alt-metal heads (Brandon Fraser, Steve Buscemi and Adam Sandler) launch a desperate attempt to have their music aired on Los Angeles’ KPPX “Rebel Radio.” Michael McKean of the rock ‘n’ roll flicks This is Spinal Tap and Light Of Day is the station program director, Joe Mantegna (U.S TV’s Criminal Minds) is (excellent as) radio personality “Ian the Shark,” and Judd Nelson is the record executive. MTV’s Kurt Loder, Motorhead’s Lemmy, and Howard Stern’s Stuttering John Melendez (Stuttering John, the band, placed a song in the film) appear in cameos. White Zombie and The Galactic Cowboys (as the Sons of Thunder) perform; Anthrax and Primus appear on the soundtrack. Director Michael Lehmann returned with the radio station rom-com, The Truth About Cats and Dogs.

* Many thanks to Gregg Harrington over at the Neon Maniacs podcast for coming to the rescue and reviewing this awesome, grungy slice of ’90s nostalgia for B&S, as we just didn’t have time to give it a full review proper.

Eldorado (1995)

This Canadian grunge-drama follows a disc jockey who serves as the background for multiple storylines. Lloyd is a disc jockey for an alternative station that’s in love with a bartender at a local punk club, who’s involved with a liquor store clerk. The rest of the Gen X slackers: a rollerblading criminal with a wealthy friend who cares for the homeless, and a shrink with an uncooperative patient.

The Four Corners of Nowhere (1995)

In A Matter of Degrees, shenanigans at the campus radio station served as the backdrop for a group of misguided college students in Providence, Rhode Island. In Singles, the grunge rock scene of Seattle served as the backdrop. In The Four Corners of Nowhere the romantic comedy takes place in Ann Arbor, Michigan, as a college radio disc jockey uses the lives and relationships of his local coffee shop friends as fodder for his radio program. It’s the usual collection of aspiring musicians, law students and artists searching for the meaning of live.

On the Air Live with Captain Midnight (1979)

This less effective ode to radio piracy-by-van (so it also qualifies as a “vansploitation” flick; see Van Nuys Blvd.) appeared on The USA Network’s weekend Night Flight programming block in the early ‘80s. It stars Tracy Sebastian, aka Trey Loren, as the titled pirate who drives his pirate operation up and down Van Nuys Blvd., much to the chagrin of an F.C.C agent portrayed by John Ireland (Incubus). Jim Ladd of L.A.’s KMET radio also co-stars. One of Tracy’s earliest roles was in his parents’ ‘Gator Bait and he starred in Rocktober Blood.

Pump Up the Volume (1990)

A high school loaner, nicely played by Christian Slater (True Romance), leads a double life as “Hard Harry,” a sarcastic pirate disc jockey bunkered in his parent’s basement. He soon invites the wrath of the school’s administration as he begins to question the school’s operating methods. Those parents: they just don’t understand. He spins “Titanium Expose” by Sonic Youth and the Pixies’ “Wave of Mutilation,” along with Soundgarden, Peter Murphy, and Henry Rollins fronting the Bad Brains on “Kick out the Jams.” It’s all from the pen of Allan Moyle, who brought you Times Square (itself partially set in a radio station jocked by Tim “Dr. Frank-N-Furter” Curry) and Empire Records.

* Be sure to visit this excellent, definitive review of Pump Up the Volume over on the film blog from The Master Cylinder, a great site that also pays homage to the books, music and television of old.

Rude (1995)

A Canadian radio romp similar to Eldorado, only with the on air banter of a pirate radio disc jockey, Rude. He’s the plot-connective between the lives of several people living in Toronto’s tough inner city: an ex-drug dealing mural artist tries to reconnect with his family after being released from prison, an aspiring boxer destroys his career by participating in the assault of a gay man, and a woman faces the outcome of an abortion.

Times Square (1980)

While Tim Curry received top-billing in the initial ad campaign he’s barely in the film, shooting all of his scenes in two days—but what a great two days of shooting. His underground DJ Johnny LaGuardia takes advantage of two misanthropic (lesbian) runaways from the opposite sides of the tracks that are championed by the cultural malcontents New York’s 42nd Street. Give it up for the Sleeze Sisters!

* Many thanks to Jennifer Upton for picking up the slack and writing a full review proper for Times Square. Be sure to visit her blog where she frequently writes about horror and sci-fi: Womanycom.

The Rest of the Best:

Alan Partridge (2013): When a media conglomerate takes over a small British radio station, a self-absorbed disc jockey (comedian Steve Coogan) becomes the reluctant hostage negotiator for the disc jockey he got fired.

Bad Channels (1992): A publicity-hungry shock jock battles an alien using the station’s signal to capture and shrink human females in this “sequel” to Full Moon’s Demonic Toys and Dollman. Actually, it ties into five Full Moon movies (I think), but who’s counting?

* Hey, wait a minute . . . my boss, Sam, reviewed this one already? Doh! There’s too many films on this site! And here’s another take courtesy of our good friend John Leavengood over at Movies, Film and Flix.

The Brave One (2007): Jodie Foster stars as a popular New York liberal radio talk jock who goes “Death Wish” over the murder of her fiancée.

Pirate Radio (2009): A group of rogue British DJs takes on the British establishment. Also known as The Boat that Rocked, it’s based on the famed ‘60s station Radio Caroline.

Private Parts (1997): Howard Stern’s New York Times best-selling biography becomes one of the most accurate—and funny—portrayals of radio on film.

Radio Days (1987): Woody Allen’s love-letter to listening to the radio of his youth.

Talk Radio (1988): Eric Bogosian shines as the acidic Dallas DJ Barry Champlain that’s based on the tragic 1984 assassination of radio host Alan Berg.

Talk to Me (2007): Don Cheadle (of the Iron Man and Avengers franchise) portrays real life ex-con Petey Green who went on to became a top-rated Washington, D.C disc jockey.

The Upside of Anger (2005): Kevin Costner is an alcoholic ex-ballplayer and sports radio talk jock involved with his widowed neighbor and her three daughters.

Is there a movie set in a radio station that you enjoyed? Let us know. Why not write a review for us. We’d love to post it.

* Banner by R.D Francis. Clash 45-rpm sleeve courtesy of Discogs.com and text courtesy of PicFont.com.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook.

Exploring: Amityville

First, the historical facts, because this story won’t have many of them.

On November 13, 1974, Ronald DeFeo Jr. shot and killed six members of his family at 112 Ocean Avenue, a large Dutch Colonial house situated in a suburban neighborhood in Amityville, on the south shore of Long Island, New York. He was convicted of second-degree murder in November 1975.

Although the prosecution allowed that DeFeo was a user of heroin and LSD, he had an antisocial personality disorder and was well aware of his actions at the time of the crime. However, DeFeo claiming that he killed his family in self-defense because he “heard their voices plotting against him.”

Strangely enough, all of the victims were found face down in their beds with no signs of a struggle and the rifle used had no sound suppressor.

The actual house and Ronald DeFeo Jr.

The police investigation concluded that the rifle had not been fitted with a sound suppressor and found no evidence of sedatives having been administered to the bodies. Police officers and the medical examiner who attended the scene were puzzled by the speed and scale of the killings before coming to the conclusion that more than one person had to have done the killings. Stranger still, neighbors didn’t hear or report any gunshots and were only awakened by the sound of the family’s dog Shaggy barking.

DeFeo has changed his story numerous times over the years, even claiming that his sister Dawn and an unknown assailant committed some of the murders. He has also stated Dawn killed their father and then their distraught mother killed all of his siblings before he killed her. Why would he say this? Well, at the time, he took the blame because he was afraid to say anything negative about his mother to her father or his uncle, Pete DeFeo, a capo in the Genovese crime family. His stories are so malleable that even the dates that he was married to his alibi, ex-wife, Geraldine Gates, change.

Regardless of the uncertainty of DeFeo’s guilt, the next part of the truth is that in December 1975, George and Kathy Lutz and their three children moved into the house. After 28 days, the Lutzes left.

That’s where things get weird.

Here’s the real thing.

Jay Anson had written several documentaries before his book The Amityville Horror, which tells the “true” story of what happened next.

The house at 112 Ocean Avenue remained empty for 13 months after the DeFeo murders before the DeFeo family purchased it at the bargain price of $80,000 — a steal when you consider it was a five-bedroom home and had a swimming pool, boathouse and a distinctive gambrel roof — plus $400 for the furniture left behind.

George and Kathy Lutz both owned their own homes but wanted to start fresh with their family, which included Daniel, Christopher and Melissa, as well as a dog named Harry. Here’s point one where the movie and reality diverge: during the first home inspection, their real estate broker informed them of the DeFeo murders and they decided that it was not a problem.

Father Ralph J. Pecoraro — referred to as Father Mancuso in the book — performed a blessing and heard a voice say, “Get out!” when he threw the first drops of Holy Water. He didn’t tell anyone.

However, on Christmas Eve — five days after the Lutz family moved in — the priest would call the family and warn them to stay out of the second-floor room where he had heard the mysterious voice. This call was cut short by bursts of static and the priest developed stigmata. The only time that Father Pecoraro ever spoke on the subject was on a 1980 episode of In Search Of with Leonard Nimoy, where his face was darkened to help him maintain his anonymity.

Before you know it, the spirits in the home made their presence felt. George began waking up at 3:15 AM every night — the time of the murders. Flies appeared in the middle of the winter. A small hidden “Red Room” that didn’t appear in any blueprints would randomly appear. Missy developed an imaginary friend named Jodie, which doesn’t seem like a big deal, except that it was a demonic pig with glowing red eyes. Crucifixes turned upside down, slime dripped down the walls and bloody handprints showed up everywhere.

On January 14, 1976 — after two other attempts at blessing the house, the Lutz left 112 Ocean Avenue, leaving all of their possessions behind. The spirits even followed them for some time, so they decided to what came naturally: make some money.

The book of their ordeal was written after Tam Mossman, an editor at publishing house Prentice Hall, introduced the Lutz family to Anson, who listened to around 45 hours of tape-recorded recollections from them.

The original book sold around 10 million copies, with multiple editions that subtly changed details, adding to the theory that this was all a bunch of malarky. It became a cottage industry, with books appearing such as John G. Jones’ The Amityville Horror Part II, Amityville: The Final Chapter, Amityville: The Evil Escapes and Amityville: The Horror Returns. Robin Karl also wrote Amityville: The Nightmare Continues and Hans Holzer contributed Murder in Amityville, The Amityville Curse and The Secret of Amityville. Those books were written with the contributions and blessing of DeFeo, who was recommended to work with Holzer by his attorneys.

Speaking of attorneys, at this point, lawsuits started showing up. In May of 1977, the Lutz family filed against William Weber (the defense lawyer for DeFeo who had recommended that he work with Holzer), Paul Hoffman (who was writing about the hauntings), clairvoyants Bernard Burton and Frederick Mars, plus Good Housekeeping magazine, the New York Sunday News and the Hearst Corporation, all of which had published articles about their former home.

The charge? Misappropriation of names for trade purposes, invasion of privacy and mental distress.

The ask? $4.5 million in damages.

The Lutz family got none of what they wanted, Brooklyn U.S. District Court Judge Jack B. Weinstein ruling as thus: “Based on what I have heard, it appears to me that to a large extent the book is a work of fiction, relying in a large part upon the suggestions of Mr. Weber.” You can learn more about the many, many lawsuits in this article that ran in the Washington Post

Even worse, Weber would soon tell People magazine “I know this book is a hoax. We created this horror story over many bottles of wine.”

None of this kept the attention seekers — or Hollywood — away.

Those pesky Warrens.

So where do the Warrens come in? Well, on the night of March 6, 1976, the house was investigated by the self-described demonologists, along with a crew from Channel 5 New York and reporter Michael Linder of WNEW-FM. During the course of the investigation, a series of infrared time-lapse photographs showed a demonic boy with glowing eyes. That’s how The Conjuring 2 ends up on this list. And it’s just another way that the Warrens tried to stay in the media and remain relevant for decades.

Now, keep in mind, no one saw this photo until George and Kathy Lutz and Rod Steiger appeared on The Merv Griffin Show to promote the release of the first film. Yes, Hollywood had come calling.

1979 Margot Kidder > any other woman in the world circa 1979

Enter producer Samuel Z. Arkoff and American International Pictures. They purchased the rights to Anson’s novel and the writer did a first pass before Sandor Stern (who also wrote the script and directed the magnificently insane Canadian film Pin) finished the script. The film was originally intended to be a made-for-TV movie but ended up as being the most profitable independent movie since Halloween and AIP’s biggest success since The Born Losers. In fact, its grosses for an independent movie wouldn’t be eclipsed until 1990’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

The Amityville Horror (1979): Directed by Stuart Rosenberg (Cool Hand Luke), this movie ended up being the second-biggest movie of 1979. It’s not a great film — spoiler warning, not many of these movies are — but it set up the traditions that we’ve come to expect for the demonic haunted house film: blood drips down the walls, priests can’t do anything and a voice yells, “Get out!”

The studio tried to William Castle the media, taking them along with stars James Brolin and Margot Kidder to the actual 112 Ocean Avenue and getting out stories that scary things were happening on the set. Obviously, this tactic worked, because people couldn’t get enough of this movie.

Stephen King, in his book on horror Danse Macabre, stated the real reason why the movie was so effective: the true horror was that it understood that being a grown-up and having adult problems totally sucks. King would say, “The main reason that people went to it, I think, is that The Amityville Horror, beneath its ghost-story exterior, is really a financial demolition derby.” Owning a home is a money pit. And how much worse does it get if demons get involved?

With success like this, sequels weren’t far behind. Of course, the true number of sequels — and their lack of connection to the source material — would grow even more frightening than green muck seeping down the walls.

Amityville II: The Possession (1982): This is a movie that I can’t be subjective about. I absolutely adore this wonderful mess of scum. It was directed by Damiano Damiani and written by Tommy Lee Wallace, who once dressed like Michael Myers and would direct the only Halloween film that didn’t feature that character).

The movie wallows in bad taste, but it could have been even worse. After the original cut of the film was shown to test audiences, several scenes had to be cut, including one where Anthony (Burt Young!) anally rapes his wife Dolores (Rutanya Alda from Mommie Dearest!) and another where Sonny has incestuous sex with his sister Patricia (Diane Franklin, the dreamiest). These scenes have never been shown since.

This is a film where priests care so little about their parishioners that they take the phone off the hook so that they can go skiing instead of worrying about the demonic forces within their homes. It’s also a sequel that’s really a prequel, which is how Hollywood used to roll back in 1982.

It was picked as one of Siskel and Ebert’s worst films of the year and consistently was given the dreaded O for Offensive by the Pittsburgh Catholic, a publication that ten-year-old Sam would use to determine what movies had to be seen.

I used to clip and save these as a reference for what movies I should be watching.

Amityville 3-D: The Demon (1983): That tagline, WARNING: In this movie you are the victim, is 100% true. Tony Roberts takes a break from being in Woody Allen films to play John Baxter, who is really supposed to be Amityville skeptic Stephen Kaplan (paranormal investigator, vampirologist, and founder/director of the Vampire Research Center and the Parapsychology Institute of America).

It was written by David Ambrose, whose TV movie Alternative 3 has formed the basis of oh-so-many conspiracy theories over the years, and directed by Richard Fleisher, whose career is a mix of the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. To wit, for every Fantastic Voyage, Soylent Green and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, there are bombs like Che!The Jazz SingerDoctor Doolittle and Tora! Tora! Tora! He also made MandingoRed SonjaConan the Destroyer and Mr. Majestyk, so his career was pretty darn interesting. And as the son of Max Fleisher, he eventually became the chairman of Fleischer Studios, which owns Betty Boop and Koko the Clown.

So how does a 3D movie with demons — and women in peril like Candy Clark, Lori Laughlin and Meg Ryan — get so boring? You got me. Maybe because the 3D effects are nearly impossible to see and the entire film is murky and dark — and not in a good way.

Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes (1989): I can’t tell you how many of the posters painted by Renato Casaro have gotten me to watch movies that I normally would avoid. He’s that good — just look at the poster above for this made-for-TV sequel!

If it helps, it’s directed by the writer of the original film Sandor Stern. And it’s the only Amityville sequel to be based on a book in the main book series. After this, all bets are — as they say — off.

But hey — Patty Duke, Jane Wyatt and some of the Lutz furniture makes it into this one. Foremost amongst that furniture is an evil lamp. An evil lamp? Yes. That evil Lutz bric-a-brac was sold in a yard sale, exactly like this movie. So the illumination you’re enjoying right now just might come from Satan. After all, he is the Lightbringer.

The Amityville Curse (1990): Loosely based on ans Holzer’s book The Amityville Curse — loosely enough that it used its title — this film might be set in Amityville, but uses a completely different house and background story.

Why — you’d think Canadian made-for-VHS movies were just churned out with no care or concern for quality or something!

This movie will teach you — home improvement is the province of the Lord of Lies.

Amityville: It’s About Time (1992): If you’re like me and celebrate like a lunatic when a movie’s title is spoken out loud by one of its characters, good news! It’s About Time has a moment right before the end where that totally happens.

Directed by Hellraiser II: Hellbound director Tony Randel, this movie features a haunted clock from the Amityville house that causes chaos. It also has an incredibly sweaty lovemaking scene with Baywatch star Shawn Weatherly, if you care about those kinds of things. In a nascent internet 1992 video rental world, there were many people who did, in fact, have such prurient interests.

For what it’s worth, Randel would follow this movie with Ticks, a film where Seth Green, Peter Scolari, Ami Dolenz (yes, from She’s Out of Control), Alfonzo Ribero, Richard Lynch’s brother Barry and Clint Howard and his father Rance battle lyme disease-carrying insects after Howard’s character uses steroids in an attempt to strengthen his marijuana crops. Scientific hijinks, as they say, ensue.

Amityville: A New Generation (1993): You may ask, “Can the man who made Santa With Muscles direct a great Amityville movie?” Well, he can sure try.

He’s helped along with plenty of talent, like Terry O’Quinn (the Stepfather!), Julia Nickson (who was Sly’s love interest in the second Rambo movie), Richard Roundtree and former Dr. Pepper singer and one-time American Werewolf In London David Naughton.

Are you ready for performance art in an Amityville movie? You better be.

Amityville Dollhouse (1996): If you find a dollhouse that looks exactly like 112 Ocean Avenue’s famous house in your new home — that you built yourself — perhaps you shouldn’t gift it to your new stepdaughter. With advice like that, I should write a self-help book (SPOILER WARNING: I totally am!).

With this film, the lights in the trademark windows of Amityville’s most infamous house would go dark for nearly nine years. But soon, they’d return. And they’d return, as they say, with a vengeance.

The Amityville Horror (2005): A director that had only done commercials and music videos. A script that had “all new evidence.” Ryan Reynolds with his shirt off. One of these things will get people in the theater, right?

Suddenly, the shocks of the original seemed commonplace after two decades of the same cliches created by the first film. That said — it made $108 million on a $19 million budget.

The Amityville Haunting (2011): In case you were wondering, “When is someone going to get around to making a found footage Amityville movie?” and pondered, “What if The Asylum made an Amityville movie?” this film checks both horrifying queries off your infernal bucket list. Damn you for asking questions like this.

My Amityville Horror (2012): For the first time in 35 years, Daniel Lutz finally told the world his version of what happened. If you think Lorraine Warren was going to stay away from being in this movie, you don’t know the Warrens.

The Amityville Asylum (2013): Andrew Jones, the man behind the Robert doll movies you may have seen on the bottom shelves at Walmart — maybe we’re the only ones haunting the big box physical media departments these days, but we have to stick together — made this film. It’s all about High Hopes Hospital, which is in Amityville. What’s next? The Amityville 7-11The Amityville Mall?

Amityville Death House (2015): Oh no — that name in the credits. Mark Polonia, the man who made Empire of the Apes, a film that makes Time of the Apes look like Planet of the Apes, finally made his way to Amityville.

If you’re trying to see every Eric Roberts movie — and really, who isn’t? — this would be another one to cross off your list. Did you know that he has more than 550 on-screen credits? Man, we can’t even do an Eric Roberts week to cover all his films. More like an Eric Roberts eon.

Here, he plays the Dark Lord. So there’s that.

The Amityville Playhouse (2015): Although this movie was filmed in Canada and the UK, it’s about Amityville and a small movie theater there that’s haunted. How Amityville is America’s most notorious town — and not Detroit, Compton or Youngstown, Ohio — is a point of conjecture the filmmakers never endeavor to answer.

Amityville: Vanishing Point (2016): If there is a nadir in the Amityville film series, this movie exists underneath it. Would it make you feel any better if I told you that Troma founder Lloyd Kaufman is in it? No, me neither.

The Conjuring 2 (2016): This film — the second to make  Ed and Lorraine Warren into parapsychology superheroes — starts with their investigation into 112 Ocean Avenue. During a seance, Lorraine meets one of the murdered DeFeo children before having a vision of the demonic nun Valak — spin-off alert! — and then watching as Ed is killed. It was all a dream, but that nun? She isn’t going anywhere.

You have to admire the chutzpah of the Conjuring films, where a major event like Amityville — which spawned enough sequels for me to write this way too long article — only qualifies as the start of a movie.

The Amityville Legacy (2016): Cursed clocks. Haunted lumber. An evil lamp. And now, a wind-up monkey. Oh Amityville movies — you’ve finally beat me.

Actually, this one — influenced by the made-for-video Canadian sequels — isn’t that bad. The filmmakers also have made Amityville: Evil Never Dies, which remains unreleased.

The Amityville Terror (2016): Shot in the same house as Amityville: The Evil Escapes, this sequel goes back to the very familiar well, which is filled with evil spirits who want to have sex with suburban dads and then use the, to kill their families.

There’s also a flashback to a baby getting thrown into an acid-filled bathtub, which led me to a new phrase: don’t throw the baby out with the bath acid.

Amityville: No Escape (2016): Never has a title been so apt for how I feel about the movie it describes. Director Henrique Couto may be known for Haunted House on Sorority Row and Depression: The Movie, but you put an Amityville name on a movie and boom — people like me seek it out. After all, the original name of this movie was The Fear Tapes. Get ready for the found footage of some college students who better want to learn what fear is all about.

Amityville Exorcism (2017): If you thought Mark Polonia was going to stay out of Amityville, well — you thought wrong. Or incorrectly, if we want to use proper English.

There’s a scene in this movie where a demon tries to possess a girl while she swims laps in a backyard swimming pool as her drunk dad makes weiners on the grill. If this sounds like horror to you, jump right in.

Amityvllle Prison (2017): Originally known as Against the Night, this is yet another movie that had a better chance of selling if it came off as an Amityville sequel. What’s that, the sound of a record playing despite being warped and, dare we say, broken?

Director Brian Cavallaro’s experience is mostly making reality and sports specials, but hey — when a bunch of kids decides to stay overnight at a prison, I guess those skills translate just fine.

Amityville: The Awakening (2017): Amityville fans — well, me — waited with hushed anticipation for this movie to get released. And we waited. And we, well, we waited a long time. This movie stars Bella Thorne and Jennifer Jason Leigh, who surely deserve better and Kurtwood Smith, who definitely deserves much, much better.

That said, while it’s premise feels recycled, it’s not bad. Either that or I’ve been dulled to near nothing by the numerous false sequels of 112 Ocean Avenue.

Amityville: The Final Chapter (2017): Once known as Sickle, this movie got a new title despite not really having much to do with Amityville. This is directed by Geno McGahee. This will not be his last journey to Amityville.

Amityville Mt. Misery Road (2018): Ah, welcome back, my old friend. Not only did we watch this movie, we even got to talk to the director and stars (well, it’s two people, and they also did pretty much everything else). This movie is basically two people, an iPhone and a haunted road. Oh yeah — and plenty of driving footage. There is, however, no appearance of the Amityville house at all.

The Amityville Murders (2018): Daniel Ferrand, who was involved with Amityville: The Awakening went and made his own Amityville film. I will give him bonus points for bringing in Diane Franklin as Louis DeFeo and Burt Young as Brigante. But this is also the same guy who behind The Haunting of Sharon Tate, The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and the script for Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers.

UPCOMING AMITYVILLE FILMS

Amityville Cop: Geno McGahee is back in Amityville and he’s brought along a renegade cop who is trying to hunt down a possessed killer during a snowstorm.

Amityville HighJames Arcuri, whose posters on IMDB look like the Photoshopped versions of my nightmares — and that’s not a compliment, is behind this one.

There’s also Return to AmityvilleAmityville: The Beginning, Amityville: The Legacy 3-D and the aforementioned Amityville: 1974 all in development.

Instead of saying, “For God’s sake, get out of the house!” I feel like screaming “For God’s sake, please stop making these movies!” But you know me. I’ll be watching them all. Because that’s what possession — and loving your readers — is all about.

You can also check out our list on Letterboxd.

Also — if you want to get all the direct to video Amityville films…

Vinegar Syndrome’s astounding Amityville: The Cursed Collection set is the way to go. It has Amityville DollhouseAmityville: The Evil EscapesAmityville: It’s About Time and Amityville: A New Generation all in one great box set!

Exploring: So what’s up with all the Demons sequels?

The original Demons is an all-star film of Italian horror, combining talents of director Lamberto Bava, writer Dardano Sacchetti and producer Dario Argento to create an anarchic blast of heavy metal, cocaine inside Coca-Cola cans, samurai swords, motorcycles, falling helicopters, steel masked killers and demons popping out of peoples’ backs. It was so successful that it outgrossed Cat’s Eye, Silver Bullet and A Nightmare on Elm Street in its native Italy.

However, over the next ten years, there would be so many sequels — like multiple third installments — that it makes it difficult to know what’s going on. This is my attempt at telling you about these films and clearing up their connections or lack thereof.

Demons: The original film, directed by Lamberto Bava with an assist by Michele Soavi, produced by Dario Argento, with a script by Bava, Argento, Franco Ferrini and Dardano Sacchetti, takes place in a movie theater that slowly transforms into a tomb as the undead begin to take over the Earth.

This film is packed with not just music from genre favorite Claudio Simonetti, but also Billy Idol, Accept, Motley Crue, Saxon and, perhaps more surprisingly, Rick Springfield and Go West. It feels like a punch in the face, as if it’s saying, “Are you upset about how gory horror films have gotten? You haven’t seen anything yet!”

Geretta Geretta’s turn as Rosemary pretty much cemented her as an Italian horror star. Plus, Bobby Rhodes makes one hell of a pimp, Paola Cozzo from A Cat in the Brain and Demonia shows up and Nicoletta Elmi from Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein, Baron BloodA Bay of Blood and Who Saw Her Die? plays Ingrid the usherette.

Demons 2This sequel, from pretty much the same team and with most of the same actors, takes place in a high rise. It was released seven months later and really toned down the amount of violence that the original shoved in your face.

The demons from the original, this time to invade the real world through a television broadcast, transforming the inhabitants of an apartment building into bloodthirsty monsters. It’s also the debut film of Asia Argento.

The music in this one moves away from the heavy metal of its predecessor, with Simon Boswell creating the soundtrack and populating it with bands like The Smiths, Gene Loves Jezebel, The Cult, Fields of the Nephilim, Art of Noise, Peter Murphy, Love and Rockets and Dead Can Dance.

Demons 3: The Ogre: A 1989 made-for-TV horror film directed by Bava and written by Dardano Sacchetti as part of a four-movie series called Brivido Giallo (Yellow Thrill), the story for this movie is incredibly similar to another Sacchetti script, The House by the Cemetery. To be fair, Fulci did alter that script and Bava was originally considered to direct it. The writer would explain that the story was “part of [his] poetics regarding home and children: a recurring theme which I have explored several times with different shades, but also with assonances.”

To make things even more confounding, this movie was also released as Ghosthouse II, with the original Ghosthouse known in Italy as La Casa 3. Man, who knew I’d end up explaining how Evil Dead and House are tied in to the Demons universe. What magical copyright laws Italian filmmakers enjoy.

What the hell — here’s a quick break down on the La Casa films:

  • La Casa: This is the Italian name for Evil Dead.
  • La Casa 2Evil Dead 2
  • La Casa 3Ghosthouse
  • La Casa 4Witchery
  • La Casa 5Beyond Darkness
  • La Casa 6House II: The Second Story (which is unrelated to the original, so if you’re confused, you’re not the only one!)
  • La Casa 7The Horror Show (which was sold as House II in some markets and House III and The Horror Show in the U.S.!)

So wait…what is House called in Italy? Chi è Sepolto in Quella Casa, which means Who Is Buried In That House? House IV, the only movie in that American series that is tied to the original, is known as House IV – Presenze Impalpabili in Italy, which means impalpable presences.

Demons 3 (AKA Black Demons): Umberto Lenzi made this move that has no connection whatsoever to the Demons storyline. That didn’t stop nearly every other film on this list, though.

Co-written by written by Lenzi and his wife Olga Pehar, this film would find the director clash with actor Keith Van Hoven and considering his female star, Sonia Curtis, as too plain for the part, leading to him treating her badly for the entire filming.

There was, however, another movie that was going to be called Demoni 3

The Church: Although it was originally conceived as the third installment in the Demoni series, director Michele Soavi wanted this movie to be a more sophisticated movie. Referring to the other films in this series as “pizza schlock,” this movie would be the end of Soavi’s professional relationship with Argento (however, they somehow still worked together on 1991’s The Sect).

At one point, this movie was going to be called Ritorno alla Casa Dei Demoni (Return to the House of the Demons), to be written by Franco Ferrini and Dardano Sacchetti. The story would be about an airplane has to make an emergency landing on an island that would be a weird hell, with Sacchetti comparing the film to Alien.

However, Argento would later state that The Church “was never Demons 3. Nobody but Lamberto ever wanted to make Demons 3; I didn’t want it, the studio didn’t want it, nobody wanted it.”

Soavi, who was shocked that Bava had left the project after so much work, came back to it after he finished Stage Fright. The director made some changes to the script, including a new opening scene that was inspired by Conan the Barbarian.

The score for this one comes from Keith Emerson, Philip Glass and Fabio Pignatelli, who is credited as Goblin.

Demons 4 (AKA La Secta / The Sect / The Devil’s Daughter): Produced and co-written by Dario Argento, this Michele Soavi-directed movie was Jamie Lee Curtis’s sister Kelly, Herbert Lom and a rabbit that has somehow learned how to use a remote control. It’s also a bafflingly insane and awesome flick about a cult that has been chasing Curtis’s character for decades and determined to use her to create the Antichrist.

Again — it has nothing at all to do with any of the other Demons films.

Demons 5: The Devil’s Veil (AKA The Mask of the Demon / Mask of Satan): Lamberto finally decides to remake or make a homage to his father’s Black Sunday with skiers. Go figure — Soavi shows up in a cameo here as a doomed winter sports enthusiast. If you like witches who have had masks nailed to their faces with the legs of a chicken — literally, with claws — then allow me to introduce you to this — you guessed it — Demoni movie that has nothing at all to do with the other films in this series.

This is probably the sexiest of the series if by sexy I mean that you enjoy a witch getting naked and making her young breasts suddenly age while the hero watches in fear. It has some great effects in it, however, and it’s the only snowbound movie amongst all of these films.

Demons 6 De Profundis/Edgar Allan Poe’s The Black Cat: Not only does this movie have those titles, it was nearly called De Profundis (From The Deep) and is also sometimes referred to as Demons 6: Armageddon and Dead Eyes.

Even stranger, this Luigi Cozzi movie is a spiritual sequel to Suspiria and Inferno, while taking place in a world where Suspiria is just a movie. There’s also lots of puke, gore, Caroline Munro and a battle between a witch and the film’s heroine that has lasers, because we all know how much Cozzi loves his lasers.

So wait — where does the Black Cat come in? Well, after 21st Century acquired the distribution rights, CEO Menahem Golan — you know, the dude from Cannon — asked Cozzi to add new footage of black cats. That’s because Golan — the creator of The Apple — had already pre-sold the film as one of his many Poe adaptions.

I love everything about this ridiculous movie.

Demons ’95 (AKA Dellamorte Dellamore / Cemetery Man): Michele Soavi to the director’s chair again, this time for a movie that has nothing to do with any of the Demons film universe, other than perhaps the fact that its director was the man in the steel mask in the original.

Soavi’s film portends a new golden age for Italian horror, yet it was made at the very end of its power. It’s sad — it seems like the director has left behind so many frightening and fantastic things that need to be said. However, I’m happy to report that after nursing a sick son and working in television, he has returned to movie directing, most recently with The Legend of Christmas Witch.

There you go. The whole tale of the Demoni films. Just remember — if you get offered a trip to a voodoo plantation or a job offer in a cemetery or tickets to a movie from a man in a steel mask, just say no.

If you’re a TL: DR kind of person, just watch Joe Bob Briggs explain it all.

Ape Week Ends: Disney’s Planet of the Apes (202?)

It all began with the Pierre Boulle’s 1963 French novel La Planète des singes being acquired by Arthur P. Jacobs, a press agent turned film producer, for his APJAC Productions. Upon the success of his film adaptation of the novel as 1968’s Planet of the Apes, a quick succession of four sequels followed the original film from 1970 to 1973: Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes and Battle for the Planet of the Apes. Then there were two television series: the 1974 live action CBS-TV Planet of the Apes and NBC-TV’s 1975 animated Return to the Planet of the Apes.

Then, in the wake of Star Wars’ success, 20th Century Fox released a series of five telefilms in 1981, which also played as foreign theatricals, produced and cut from the CBS series: Back to the Planet of the Apes, Forgotten City of the Planet of the Apes, Treachery and Greed on the Planet of the Apes, Life, Liberty and Pursuit on the Planet of the Apes, and Farewell to the Planet of the Apes.

After wallowing in ten years of development hell, the Apes rose again with a 2001 reimaging. Unfortunately, plans to continue the film series were stymied by the lukewarm critical and box-office reception to Tim Burton’s vision. A second reboot film series commenced with 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes (directed by Rupert Wyatt), which was followed by Dawn of the Planet of the Apes in 2014 and War for the Planet of the Apes in 2017 (both directed by Matt Reeves).

Shortly before the July 2017 release of War for the Planet of the Apes, 20th Century Fox issued a press release that stated director Matt Reeves was interested in continuing the storyline. Then, in April 2019, after The Walt Disney Company acquired 20th Century Fox Studios, the Fox shingle announced that they officially began development on future Apes films. Those plans were confirmed on December 3, 2019, with director Wes Ball (The Maze Runner trilogy film series) being hired to direct an untitled fourth film in the reboot series.

It is unknown if Wes Ball’s vision will serve as a follow up to Matt Reeves’s War for the Planet of the Apes or if it will serve as the first film in a third series reboot.

Stay tuned . . .

And speaking of Disney’s rebooting of the Star Wars franchise, be sure to visit with us as we explore the films that inspired Star Wars and the films that Star Wars inspired, as B&S Movies continues its Exploring series with “Exploring: Before Star Wars” and “Exploring: After Star Wars.”

Here’s our full list of Ape films reviewed this week:

The Originals

Planet of the Apes (1968)
Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)
Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971)
Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972)
Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973)
Planet of the Apes: The Five Telefilms from the 1974 Series (1981)

The Reboots

Planet of the Apes (2001)
Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)
War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)
Disney’s Planet of the Apes (202?)
Exploring: The Unmade Planet of the Apes Films

The Ripoffs

Empire of the Apes (2013)
Eva, The Savage Venus: Italy’s Planet of the Apes (1968)
Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974)
Night of Bloody Apes: Mexico’s Planet of the Apes (1972)
O Trapalhoa no Planalto dos Macacos: The Brazilian Planet of the Apes (1976)
Planet of Dinosaurs (1978)
Revenge from Planet Ape: The Spanish Planet of the Apes (1978)
Revolt of the Empire of the Apes (2017)
Saru no Gundan: Japan’s Planet of the Apes (1974)
Sex on Planet Ape: The Lost Erotic Ape Movies (1979 – 2002)
Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975)

Banner by R.D Francis. Planet of the Apes and Disney logos are the property of 20th Century Fox and The Walt Disney Corporation and are both widely available on the web. Graphic overlay courtesy of PineTools.com.

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About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S Movies.