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 Toybox (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 was released in 2020 as Amityville Clownhouse.

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.

And . . . it was only a matter of time before clowns got involved.

59C9E358-0D16-4DEB-8322-7EC546DEFD65

Amityville Clownhouse (2017): It’s a sequel to 2016’s The Amityville Legacy, a movie that features a haunted, cymbal-playing monkey causing all the terror. So, yeah. There’s a haunted clown here.

Amityville Island (2020): When a movie has the tagline “For God’s sake, get out of the water!” you know I’m probably going to have to watch it. This is a women in prison, science gone wild story and a government conspiracy flick all at the same time, with one of the characters being a women who killed people inside the house on 112 Ocean Avenue.


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!

Several of the Amityville films in this “Exploring” featurette can be enjoyed as free-with-ads streams on Tubi TV.

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.

***

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.

Ape Week: Sex on Planet Ape: The Lost Erotic Ape Movies (1979 — 2002)

And you thought you’d seen it all with Empire of the Apes (2013) and Revolt of the Empire of the Apes (2017)?

Get your hands off me, you damn pervert ape!

Well, break out the K-Y and the Trojans as we spin through a rip in the space-time continuum to a planet—lost somewhere beyond the planet Porno—where we meet the evil apes Dr. Anus and General Jerko and the peace-loving ape Cocknelius. Where’s Flesh Gordon when you need ’em? Hell, where are Jess Franco and Jean Rollin when you need ’em?

If there are any films that make the de Ossorio hack job Revenge from Planet Ape look like an Oscar Winner, it’s these behind-the-beaded curtain ape homages.

Mistress of the Apes (1979)

American exploitation filmmaker and self-professed “schlockmeister,” Larry Buchanan, he the king of the day-for-night shoots of our beloved trash-classics Curse of the Swamp Creature, The Eye Creatures, It’s Alive!, Mars Needs Women, and Zontar, the Thing from Venus dreamed up this sexploitation variation on Planet of the Apes crossed with Tarzan. The story concerns a sexy anthropologist who embarks on an expedition to find her missing anthropologist husband and discovers a tribe of evolved apes who engage in sex and rape and enjoy their soft-core nudity. Even by Buchanan’s standards, this ape romp is terminally weird. Weird than his Jim Morrison flick Down on Us, you ask? Yes!


Planet of the Babes (2001)

Okay. Let’s get this over and done with: When Ang Lee received worldwide acclaim with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the porn industry pumped out a knockoff: Crouching Penis, Hidden Vagina. Stanley Kurbrick’s Spartacus became Spurtacus. Even Steven Spielberg wasn’t immune: E.T became the E-Three: The Extra Testicle, and he got another porn makeover with Shaving Ryan’s Parts. And you can probably guess the source materials for Big Trouble in Little Vagina, Ram-ohh, Romancing the Bone, and Womb Raider. There’s even a Marvel sex-romp: XXX-Men. And who can forget Saturday Night Beaver?

Thus, with the release of Tim Burton’s 2001 Planet of the Apes-reboot, it was inevitable the adult film industry would respond with a series of sexploitation rips. As with the present-day Asylum/SyFy Channel mockbusters we know today, this first film in the “sex apes” sweepstakes takes no chances: it lifts its plot and scenes wholesale from the 1968 original—with the ubiquitous, comical-character name changes (Dr. Anus and Cocknelius) expected in a porn-parody flick.

In the interview vignettes for the DVD release of 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, James Franco angered the original film series’ fans when he made light of the groundbreaking John Chambers-makeup work and commented: “their mouths didn’t move,” as if insulting the original films was a smart way to upsell the green screen-motion capture apes of our post-Burton simian world. It’s obvious that James never saw Planet of the Babes, with its apparent, pull-over gorilla, chimpanzee, and orangutan masks. Does Planet of the Babes make Buchanan’s ape romp look good? Yes. Is Planet of the Babes more entertaining that Rise? You better believe it.

(You Tube had 30 minute edit of the film with all the bad stuff (GOOD STUFF!) blurred out and it’s since been pulled down. So Google it at your own peril if you absolutely must.)


Playmate of the Apes (2002)

If you had a Showtime or Cinemax subscription—and suffered from insomnia—chances are you saw this New Jersey-shot sex clone written by and starring adult actress and B-Movie stalwart Debbie Rochon released a mere seven months after Tim Burton’s 2001 remake hit the big screen.

Misty Mundae, aka Sadie Lane, aka American actress Erin Brown (she’s starred in a combined 87 adult films and low-budget B-Movies since her 1997 debut), stars as Commander Gaylor, one of three female astronauts—including Debbie Rochon as Dr. Cornholeous—who crash land on a distant planet populated by talking, horny apes led by the gorilla Generals Jerko and Lade. When the starbabes meet a human-friendly lesbian ape, Dr. Kweera, and her human jungle-woman subject (read: Nova), the ensuing lesbian lust threatens ape society.


Planet of the Erotic Apes (2002)

Also known as Babes in Kong Land, this shot-in-Cincinnati ape rip is actually a rip off of the Richard Hatch, Kay Lenz, and John Saxon borefest, Prisoners of the Lost Universe (1983), only with sex and apes added. A TV repairman, who sidelines as a mad scientist, tests his new invention and accidentally transports himself to a planet where Amazonian women eschew men into “The Forbidden Zone” and bed with talking apes. Keen eyes weaned on the lowest-budget of the low-budget B-Movies will recognize Julie Strain (Psycho Cop Returns, Naked Gun 33 1/3, Beverly Hills Cop II, Battle Queen 2020) and Monique Gabrielle (Jim Wynorski’s Transylvania Twist, 976-Evil II, Munchie).


And on the lighter side of ape parodies . . .

The off-spring of ‘90s Gen-X’ers were first exposed to Planet of the Apes by way of a Season 7 episode of The Simpsons starring actor Troy McClure cast in a musical version of Planet of the Apes entitled Stop the Planet of the Apes, I Want to Get Off!. Troy sings the musical number “Dr. Zaius, Dr. Zaius” and serenades the Statue of Liberty with the lyric: “Oh my Gosh, I was wrong! It was Earth all along!” It’s the greatest ape homage, ever. Well, until Robot Chicken broke out the G.I Joes. . . .

Did you know there were three missing scenes from Planet of the Apes ‘68? Well the stop-motion sketch comedy television series Robot Chicken, which appeared as part of the adult-oriented nighttime programming block Adult Swim on the Cartoon Network, recreated that “missing footage”:

Now, if someone would come up some stop-motion G.I Joe and Barbie porn. . . .

And be sure to check out our linked-up “Ape Week” wrap-up of all the ape movies we reviewed this week with our “Ape Week Ends: Disney’s Planet of the Apes.”

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.

Exploring: The Unmade Planet of the Apes Films

For all the Planet of the Apes films — it’s on its third reboot, plus it had a TV and animated series — there are several that never got made.

Before he did The Dark Backward, Adam Rifkin was brought in to write what the studio referred to as an alternative sequel to the first film. You know, because they blow Earth up real good in that one.

The script that was completed, called Return to the Planet of the Apes, presented an ape empire that had reached its Roman era, with a descendant of Charlton Heston’s character — named Duke, after John Wayne, who was raised by Cornelius — who would lead the revolt against the apes. Think Gladiator with Rick Baker doing the monkey costumes and Tom Cruise or Charlie Sheen (one of those things used to actually happen back in 1988) in the lead. This project has also been called Return to the Planet of the Apes: World At War and had an evil ape named General Izan.

You can read more right here.

In 1992, Peter Jackson and his writing partner Fran Walsh began working on what they thought of as the sixth film in the Apes series. They also scored a major victory early — they were somehow able to convince Roddy McDowall to sign on, playing an ape who led an artistic revival.

So what happened? Studio heads switched around and the new people in charge didn’t know and didn’t care why McDowall was important. Jackson and Walsh moved on to Heavenly Creatures and then, you know, some of the biggest movies of all time.

Image courtesy of the great PlaidStallions.com

Oliver Stone was next to try and make an Apes movie. He hated the original movies and instead had the thought of combining the Bible code, prehistoric conspiracies and time travel. Studio heads referred to the as “Gorillas In The Mist meets The Terminator” and gave Stone $1 million to write and direct. The final script — by Terry Hayes, who wrote The Road Warrior and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome — has huge swipes of The Lord of the RIngs, as well as Altered States with lots of steampunk in it.

Stone would say, “It has the discovery of cryogenically frozen Vedic Apes who hold the secret numeric codes to the Bible that foretold the end of civilizations. It deals with past versus the future. My concept is that there’s a code inscribed in the Bible that predicts all historical events. The apes were there at the beginning and figured it all out.”

Who could play the scientist out to save us all, Geneticist Will Robinson? Arnold Schwarzenegger, of course. Holy shit, I wish this movie got made, one where Robinson builds an ancient Statue of Liberty before the real one was made to remember men who died in the future so he could go into the past and…drugs, people. Hollywood runs on drugs. I say that because a major scene involved the apes learning how to play baseball, yet they have no pitcher.

You can learn more at the Planet of the Apes fandom page.

I also have a Twilighter.

Planet of the Men — written by Batman scribe Sam Hamm — was next, with Arnold still attached. While his first script is very close to the original book and film, the new script was all about a space ape crash landing on earth, which lets a human-killing virus loose and Arnold going to the ape planet for a cure.

Of course, when they get back home, the apes took over again. There was also plenty of time devoted to making sure that the apes could ski in this movie. Don’t ask me why. The script also has the Bee Gees as apes and a simian issue of Playboy. Director Chris Columbus would eventually move on and work with Arnold on Jingle All the Way. Sadly, we missed all of this.

Roland Emmerich got involved somewhere here, as did James Cameron who wanted to remake the first two movies as one big film. Then Peter Jackson almost came back, then Michael Bay and the Hughes Brothers showed some interest.

After all that, producer Richard D. Zanuck — who had greenlit the original movie that started all of this — came back, hired Tim Burton to reimagine the movie and it was a huge financial success that no one really liked.

Instead of a sequel, that meant that the Apes would lie dormant until writers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver — inspired by footage of domesticated chimpanzees — wrote a spec script that they called Genesis. Then they realized, “We’re actually writing Planet of the Apes.” It could have been worse. They could have been writing a reboot of Congo. Hey — give Hollywood time.

This article took some info from these sources: Den of Geek, Hollywood Suite and the book Tales From Development Hell: The Greatest Movies Never Made?

BONUS ROUND: Did you know that in the comic books that the Apes have crossed over with Star Trek, Green Lantern, King Kong, Tarzan and Alien Nation? They sure did.

Exploring: After Star Wars – fin

Exploring: Episode II . . .

A long time ago . . . on a theatre screen far, far away . . . long before Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker . . .

2001: A Space Odyssey holds the distinction—in a gullet-stifling glut of Italian rip-offs of every successful American movie known to man—to never be victimized by pasta-cloning.

So the Italian film industry stuck with the films they knew best, and could pull off with aplomb; thus came the retreads of the American films Spartacus, The Magnificent Seven, the James Bond film series, and Death Wish, etc.—the list goes on and on. If a film cleaned up at the box office in America, a pasta variant was in Euro-theatres with a year of the release of its English-language inspiration. You don’t believe this writer? How many Italian reimages of the successful American films Alien, Conan the Barbarian, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and The Road Warrior can you name in sixty seconds—GO!

There is no denying Star Wars is a story-telling and technical achievement that, almost immediately upon its March 1977 release, became the most successful movie ever made—with its two subsequent sequels achieving an estimated world-wild box office gross of a billion dollars. It can’t be denied: Lucas’s vision is the most influential movie ever produced.

However, Star Wars, when compared to 2001: A Space Odyssey, is cartoon-styled, childish goofiness. True, Lucas’s vision presented things on screen that young, impressionable film goers never seen before—and if we did, the rehashed elements were handled with such style that it had the “air” of originality. Regardless of their ingenuity and inventiveness against restrictive budgets and tight schedules, there was no way the Italian film industry could successfully execute the complex, introspective psychological insights of 2001.

Yes, Italy was the land of superior psychology-inspired storytelling courtesy of the inventive writing and directing of Federico Fellini (8 1/2 and Amarcord) and Michelangelo Antonioni (Blow Up or The Passenger), but neither of these “stars” of Italian cinema were dipping their toes into any cinematic black holes to go up against Kubrick. (It’s a shame they didn’t: that would be a hell of a sci-fi film.)

Courtesy of its Japanese The Hidden Fortress-inspired tale of epic battles rife with devil-may-care, risk-taking rogues and damsel-princess, Star Wars, unlike its Kubrickian antecedent, was easy to copy. Strip away the spaceships and lasers and Star Wars was no different than any of the American Westerns that the Italian film industry fleeced — and made American television actor Clint Eastwood into an international film star.

So . . .

Cue the John Williams-inspired orchestra.

Cue the baritone announcer: “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far way. . . .”

Cue the Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe-inspired opening title crawl.

Break out Mama Leone’s pasta pots . . . “Let’z a-make us-sa Star Wars!”

And the kitchen duties fell to Alfonso Brescia to create the first-out-of-the-gate “Spaghetti Wars.”

Under his Americanized director-nom de plume of Al Bradley, he presented 1977’s Anno Zero Guerra ello Spazio, aka Year Zero War in Space (Cosmos: War of the Planets in America) to the Italian-cuisine loving world. Many sci-fi connoisseurs believe Brescia’s “Star Wars” debut isn’t so much a rip-off of Star Wars; they opine it’s a homage to another Italian space epic, one that was produced amid all of those Antonio Margheriti-spaghetti space operas: Mario’s Bava’s Terrore nello Spazio, aka Terror in Space (known in American theatres as Planet of Vampires; then in its U.S TV syndication as Demon Planet).

And they’re right: Look at the costuming, and alien-possession subplots of Bava’s and Brescia’s films for comparison. Adding to the celluloid confusion: Cosmos had similarly-influenced—if not the very same-recycled—costumes and sets as Margheriti’s films. In addition: Cosmos was also distributed as War of the Planets—which was the title of the second film of Margheriti’s Gamma One series.

Amid Cosmos’ self-recycled stock footage and shot-through-sheets-of-sepia-paper-and-cheese-cloth special effects, Cosmos also ineptly-lifted whole scenes from 2001: A Space Odyssey (an astronaut completes an upside-down communication device repair-in-space) and Barbarella (sex via touching a “blue orb of light” between beds). The “plot” for those who fell asleep: Our heroes journey to a planet where a green-skinned race is subjugated by an evil computer . . . and the Earth’s Italian “Hal 9000”, “The Wiz,” is possessed by the evil alien computer. . . .

“Hey, this isn’t ‘Star Wars,’ this is ‘Star Dreck’,” said the scrawny, pimply-faced and horned-rimmed glassed twelve-year-old spaz in the theater’s darkness.

“Dude, this more like ‘Star S**t’,” replied his portly, mullet-haired, eleven-year-old sidekick. “Let’s use the rest of our money to go bowling next door.”

Believe it or not, with everyone tricked into believing they were seeing another “Star Wars,” Brescia’s debut-rip turned a profit. So he came back a second time with his “Empire Strikes Back” in the form of 1978’s Battaglie negli spazi stellar, aka Battle in Interstellar Space (Battle of the Stars in English-speaking countries; “sounds” suspiciously like “Battlestar Galactica”).

Unlike Cosmos, aka Italy’s “Star Wars I,” Italy’s “Star Wars II” suffered from poor theatrical distribution and a weak reissue via home video and TV syndication. Then, with all the alternate titling that plagues European films as they’re distributed to the international markets, spacesploitation buffs believed the almost-impossible-to-find Battle of the Stars was Cosmos—with a new title. It’s not. Battle of the Stars is an entirely new film that cannibalizes Cosmos for stock footage—and all the costumes and sets return. As is the case with most “sequels” (Alien vs. Aliens and Mad Max vs.The Road Warrior being the exceptions to the rule), Battle is a just remake/reimage of Cosmos—with a little script tweak: Instead of traveling to the planet-home of the evil computer, this time the rogue planet without-an-orbit comes to Earth, which . . . (so exhausting) was the plot of Margheriti’s Battle of the Planets. (See the confusion?)

Then, all of the one-piece spandex suits and pull-over headpieces were back for a third sequel in 1978’s La guerra dei robot, aka War of the Robots (Reactor in the international markets) with a society of gold-painted skin people pinch-hitting for the green folks from Cosmos. Also back: All of the stock SFX footage, costumes, and sets—and whole scenes lifted from the previous two films. The “plot,” such as it is, concerns gold Aryan robots with Dutch-boy haircuts on the brink of extinction that kidnap a couple of Earth scientists to save their planet. So a crack team of space marines (see Aliens; which wasn’t made yet!) are sent in for a rescue. What makes Reactor so utterly confusing: All of the same actors from the last two films come back — as different characters. So, it’s a “sequel” . . . then it’s not.

Mind you, George Lucas was still in production with the second Star Wars movie, The Empire Strikes Back (1980)—and Brescia is already on his 4th sequel with 1979’s “The Gold Ayran Dutch Boy Robots” (joking) . . . but they really were back in Sette Uomini d’oro nello Spazi, aka Seven Gold Men in Space which, if you’re able to keep up with the alternate-titling of Italian films, became Star Odyssey for English-speaking audiences. All the footage and props are back (Brescia’s recycling is actually worse than the cheap n’ shameless footage, prop, and costume recycling from the Battlestar GalacticaBuck Rogers U.S TV axis) in the year 2312, where the Earth is referred to by evil aliens as “Sol 3.” “Darth Vader” is some guy in a (quite impressive) lizard skin mask (but it’s topped with a Farrah Fawcett-’70s feathered hair cut) that “buys” Earth in some inter-galactic auction to cultivate Earthlings as slaves to sell on the open market.

The “Han Solo” of this mess is some guy in a shiny-silver Porsche racing jacket and a funky, disco-inspired spider web tee-shirt contracted for a The Magnificent Seven-inspired recruitment of a rescue team of rogues. . . . (“Wait, didn’t Roger Corman make a space-version of The Magnificent Seven?” you ask. Yes, he did, and that was called Battle Beyond the Stars . . . I know, it’s confusing!). So, this Star Oh-Why-Am-I-Watching-This-Crap comes complete with its own R2D2 and C3PO in the form of a bickering male/female robot couple (the female has eyelashes and red lips) dealing with “sexual dysfunction” and “relationship issues.” And there’s a scrawny n’ skinny Han Solo-replicant acrobat who backflips and summersaults into battles—and makes a living fighting in boxing rings with Rock ’em Sock ’em Robots. (“Hey, wait. That sounds like 2001’s Real Steel?” you ponder. Yep!)

Oh, my god. Is this Italian Star Wars Film Festival over? Even in written form, this is painful. You’re killing us. Please, dear god, stop!

Sorry, kids. There’s more. And it gets worse.

Do you, the sci-fi film buff, remember the infamous X-rated Flash Gordon porn-flick, Flesh Gordon (1972)? Did you ever wonder: What if Reece and Ripley (and we know they did, off-script and off camera) “got it on” in Aliens?

That was Brescia’s next opus: Porn Wars.

There’s George Lucas, killing the box office with The Empire Strikes Back, and Brescia responds with his “Star Wars V”: 1980’s La Bestia nello Spazio, aka The Beast in Space. The interesting twist to this “sequel”: it not only occurs in the same universe (courtesy of footage, costumes, props, sets, and actors recycling) continued from Star Odyssey, it’s also a “sequel” to an infamously popular Italian exploitation movie, The Beast (1975): both films star noted erotic/exploitation actress Sirpa Lane. (Because of the success of The Beast, and her other erotic/exotic films, the Euro-press christened Lane with the affectionate stage name: “The Beast.” In the early days of her career, she was marketed as the next “Brigitte Bardot.”)

Issued in a “PG,” “R” and “X”-rated format, the “plot” concerns the Earth’s search of the cosmos for a rare element: Antallum, the key ingredient for bomb construction to basically kill off everyone in the universe. But that’s just a minor-plot irritation. The real story: The crew is “horny,” with chauvinistic men and slutty women astronauts seducing each other on their way to Lorigon to plunder the planet of its Antallum honey hole. Well, the planet’s sentient super-computer isn’t having any of that nonsense. That’s his Antallum. So “Hal 9000” sidetracks the Earthlings by inciting them to indulge in their deepest, darkest sexual desires. Did I mention the gold Aryan Dutch-boy robots are back as well?

After five “Star Wars” films in short three years, Brescia turned over the keys to the Millennium Falcon. His space opera career was over. But let’s cut Uncle Al a break: he was saddled with the cheapest budgets and pressure-shoot schedules that no filmmaker should endure in their careers.

After 1980’s The Beast in Space, Brescia continued to make non-science fiction films for the remainder of his career—14 more films for the next 15 years. At the time of his retirement in 1995, he completed a career total of 51 films.

Most of Brescia’s post-1980 work was primarily restricted to Italy-only distribution. His career took a financially-positive turn in the late-‘80s with the worldwide-distributed Iron Warrior (1987; the third in the hugely successful Italian rip-off series of Conan the Barbarian) and Miami Cops (1989; violent Miami Vice-inspired buddy-cop flick starring Richard Roundtree). Sadly, even with the success of Iron Warrior and Miami Cops, Brescia was unable to secure distribution for his self-financed final film, the 1995 action-comedy, Club Vacanze.

Alfonso Brescia, the king of the Star Wars-inspired spaghetti-space opera died, ironically, in 2001. And that was the end of Italy’s “Spaghetti Wars.”

. . . And what critical and box office fate awaits Uncle Walt’s latest volley from the Star Wars cannons?

We wait with pasta-bated breath. (Sam just weighed in with his insights . . . uh, oh!)

* * *

And that finishes our crazy, two-week intergalactic rodeo as we remembered all of the influences and pre-and-post Star Wars films and ripoffs from the ’70s and ’80s.

Be sure to surf on over to our December 16 posting where we explored the galaxy of space operas that inspired George Lucas with “Exploring: Before Star Wars.”

Here’s the complete list from our celebration of the Star Wars cannons:

The Compilation Lists

Attack of the Clones: Redux
Ten Star Wars Ripoffs
Exploring: Before Star Wars
Exploring (Before “Star Wars”): The Russian Antecedents of 2001: A Space Odyssey
A Whole Bunch of Alien Ripoffs at Once
Ten Movies That Ripped Off Alien

Individual Reviews

Before Star Wars: Destination Moonbase Alpha (1973) (1980)
Before Star Wars: Genesis II (1973), Planet Earth (1974), and Strange New World (1975)
Before Star Wars: Invasion UFO (1970) (1980)
Before Star Wars: The Starlost (1973) (1980)
Brave New World (1980): NBC-TV’s other “Star Wars”
Canada’s Star Wars: H.G Wells The Shape of Things to Come (1979)
Japan Does Star Wars: Bye, Bye Jupiter (1984)
Japan Does Star Wars: The War in Space (1977)
Kirk Douglas Does Star Wars: Saturn 3 (1980)
NBC TV’s “Star Wars”: The Martian Chronicles (1980)
Star Wars Droppings: Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979)
Star Wars Droppings: Dünyayi Kurtaran Adam (1982)
Star Wars Droppings: Escape from Galaxy 3 (1980)
Star Wars Droppings: Galaxina (1980)
Star Wars Droppings: Hangar 18 (1980)
Star Wars Droppings: The Ice Pirates (1984)
Star Wars Droppings: Meteor (1979)
Star Wars Droppings: Mysterious Planet (1982)
Star Wars Droppings: Os Trapalhoes na Guerra dos Planetas (1978)
Star Wars Droppings: Space Raiders (1983)
Star Wars Droppings: Starchaser: The Legend of Orin (1985)
Star Wars Droppings: Star Odyssey (1979)
Star Wars Droppings: Starship Invasions (1977)
Star Wars German Style: Operation Ganymed (1977)
Star Wars Holiday Special (1978)
The Star Wars TV Movies: The Ewok Adventure (1984) and Ewoks: The Battle for Endor (1985)
Tobe Hooper Does Star Wars: Lifeforce (1985)

And . . . here are a few older reviews of films in the Star Wars “universe” to enjoy:

Damnation Alley (1977)
Hawk the Slayer (1980)
Jodorowsky’s Dune
(2013)
Krull (1983)
The Neptune Factor
(1973)
Yor: The Hunter from the Future (1983)

* * *

Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker had its world premiere in Los Angeles on December 16, 2019, and was released theatrically on December 20 in the United States.

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

Exploring: Drama at the Drive-In

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bill Frugge has been a lifelong fan of the drive-in. He always remembers to return his speaker to the holder before he drives away.

Throughout the ’70s there existed a type of film that defied simple classification. They weren’t exactly sex romps or comedies, but they could be sexy and funny. They weren’t really thrillers, but they could generate a good deal of suspense. They weren’t outright horror films, but they could be shocking and scary. They were never full-fledged action pictures, but they could deliver quite an adrenaline rush. They were made predominately for an audience looking to be titillated by bare skin and cheap thrills.

For benefit of some sort of identifier, I’ve always referred to these wacky, go-for-broke pictures as “Drive-in Dramas.” They were always dramatic in tone, punctuated with sex, drugs, action, laughs and usually startling, out-of-left-field violence. (Later, when these films had a second life on video cassette, it was anyone’s guess where you would find them in a video rental shop. They were always scattered among the different categories, placed wherever based solely on their box cover artwork.)

A loosening of restraints on film content afforded by the then newly established MPAA rating system allowed filmmakers to push the boundaries of what was once considered acceptable on screen. Many times it was obvious that distributors had no idea how to market these films, as the ad campaign may have played up the fact there were four sexy young career women spending the summer together in a beach house, but totally neglect the subplot about the psychotic killer who stalks them throughout the film until finally attacking them in the final reel.

It was Roger Corman, with his New World Pictures, that discovered a successful blueprint for these films, and he returned to that structure time and time again.

Stephanie Rothman’s The Student Nurses (1970) introduced a quartet of lovely, young, independent women who have recently finished nursing school. Each has their own story, experiencing personal growth and drama while enjoying love with various lovers. Their adventures intertwined and resolutions to all the conflicting storylines were tied up in a tidy eighty-nine minutes.

The film was a huge success and spawned a whole series of interchangeable young nurses experiencing interchangeable adventures. Titles include Private Duty Nurses (1971), Night Call Nurses (1971), The Young Nurses (1973) and Candy Stripe Nurses (1973).

To spice the old formula up a bit, Corman mixed his nurses with the old exploitative women-in-prison flicks for Joe Viola’s The Hot Box (1971), in which our young nurses are abducted and transformed into freedom fighters. Hot, sweaty Filipino locales help provide further “exotic” flavor to the proceedings.

The Stewardesses 3-D (1969) pretty much delivered on its promise of scantily clad sky hostesses having sexy adventures. Vignettes featuring fun-loving stewardesses over a weekend stop-over make up the action, but I’m willing to bet the storyline involving a masochistic misogynist subjecting his lover to brutality and ending in murder, caught more than one audience member off guard. It evidently didn’t disturb anyone too badly; as the picture went on to make millions.

Independent-International Pictures jumped on the stewardess bandwagon with Al Adamson’s Naughty Stewardesses (1974). Connie Hoffman and Marilyn Joi headline as the type of young stewardesses who bed down old crusty lizards like Bob Livingston. The plot gets twisted pretty quickly into a life or death kidnapping situation that doesn’t end so happily for everyone involved. It’s quite a tonal shift from a movie that promises only “pretty, young girls.”

Blazing Stewardesses (1975) followed, offering more screwball-type comedy antics and less exposed flesh with some hijackers thrown in. It was followed by Bedroom Stewardesses (1976), which was a reworking of an earlier German crime drama Der Arzt Von St. Pauli (1968), which I-IP released prior in another reworked version as Females for Hire and possibly Sidewalk Doctor and The Doctor of St. Pauli. Under the Bedroom Stewardesses title it included some stewardess inserts (directed by Al Adamson) and eventually played on I-IP’s successful “3 TIMES AS SEXY” stewardess show with their previous two pictures.

Corman got into the stewardess game with Cirio Santiago’s drama-action hodgepodge Fly Me (1973). The various storylines play out as our gals hop in and out of bed with various suitors until a kidnapping, assault and human and drug trafficking subplot gives way to a full-blown Kung Fu climax!

The poster for The Swinging Cheerleaders (1974) suggests a fun sex romp but this being a Jack Hill picture it has more on its mind than mere titillation. A young college news sleuth infiltrates the rah-rah squad and blows the doors wide open on the demeaning world of the pep squad girls, as well as exposing rampant cheating and illegal gambling.

Just the title Cheerleaders Wild Weekend (1979) conjures scenes of mindless fun and frolic. It’s understandable, then, if this tale of abduction and assault catches you off guard and grinds those thoughts of cheap thrills to dust.

The tagline “Million Dollar Fold-Outs Who Never Hold Out!” for Cover Girl Models (1975) promises frolicking, salacious kicks. The Curio Santiago flick actually concerns American models in the Philippines mixing with spies in a plot filled with copious conspiracies and international espionage.

Following the success of her husband’s Nurse series, Julie Corman produced The Student Teachers (1973), which introduces a quartet of young teaching assistants and stirs into the plot one clown masked lunatic rapist, and Summer School Teachers (1974), which balances between stark dramatics (Dick Miller as a lecherous creep) and some honestly funny bits thanks to the always wonderful Candice Rialson.

The poster for Trip with the Teacher (1975) asks, “How far should a teacher go to protect her students?” When their bus breaks down in the desert, a fun field trip turns foul when two crazed bikers make the scene. Brutality ensues.

Angel Tompkins stars as The Teacher (1974), a story about a 28-year-old teacher and her affair with a neighbor boy. It seems like nothing but laughs and smiles until a psychotic creeper derails the tone of the picture.

I admit, nothing about an exploitative title like Kidnapped Coed (1976) sounds “fun,” but some viewers may have be put off some when they realized they were watching a tale of love! It also played under the more appropriate and more disturbing title Date with a Kidnapper.

In Cindy & Donna (1970), teen half-sisters Cindy, 15, and Donna, 17, share the same mom and experience their sexual awakenings in slightly disturbing fashion, culminating in an ending that hits you like an icy cold slap across the face.

Hitchhiking seems like a premise for fun-loving adventures, unless you’re a character in either Pick-up (1975) or Hitch Hike to Hell (1977). In the case of either, you’ll be trading in your smiles and laughter for torture, screams and hell on earth.

Best Friends (1975) starts off with friends taking a cross-country trek in a motor-home, only for tragedy to eventually catch up with these young lovers of fun. The cast includes Richard Hatch.

Blue Money (1972) concerns a married couple whose seemingly perfect relationship crumbles under the pressures of husband Jim’s job as a director of pornography. Persistent vice officers help Jim realize that loads of anything-goes sex and mountainous piles of money are poor substitutes for real happiness.

Crown International delivered plenty of family drama with naughty, title/poster-suggest-all pictures like The Stepmother (1972- with Claudia Jennings) and The Sister-in-Law (1974). As if the titles didn’t suggest enough taboo smashing entertainment, these films go dark fast and some characters end up on cold slab down at the Drive-in City Morgue.

Harry Novak and Box Office International Pictures knew their audience but on occasion, too much plot crept into their soft-core offerings. When this happened, magic was made. Case in point is the totally wacko Teenage Bride (1975). A young brother starts an affair with his older brother’s lonely wife. Insanity ensues. Not as grim as it could have been but trust me, there are plenty of hysterics and dramatics, in all their sweaty, hairy, pimply ’70’s grandeur.

Keenan Wynn’s hot, new, young trophy wife causes hell for his adult children that turns quickly to deceit and murder in the ridiculously entertaining A Woman for All Men (1975). Director Arthur Marks proves again he is a reliable exploitation scenarist in the same league as Jack Hill.

Gameshow Models (1976) seems like it should be a non-stop sexcapade, and this I-IP doctored version of the art film The Seventh Dwarf (1975) comes close, but it’s still about a hippie’s journey into the world of big business who becomes self-aware after losing it all. Dick Miller and Cheryl “Rainbeaux” Smith are featured in some of the new footage.

When the ’70s ended, this type of “drive-in drama” flick more or less mutated into teen sex comedies, late night cable soft-core or straight-up slasher movies. The stories were reshaped with some of the more outrageous story aspects now directed more toward cheap, gross-out laughs, mindless titillation and gory shocks.

One film, however, did manage to revive the spirit of these crazy flicks from the ’70s, with all the sleazy charm of a kidnapped student nurse abducted by an insane rodeo clown.

In 1987, writer-director-producer-star-editor-casting director and composer Richard Horian delivered the absolutely amazing Student Confidential. In the film Horian is a former business tycoon millionaire who now volunteers his time as an occasionally suicidal guidance counselor for troubled high school students. He weirdly pops into the lives of his young charges and “fixes” them, regardless of their personal tragedies. (“You say you have an ugly scar on your face and nobody likes you? Let’s get your hair done and completely cover your face so you can be confident and pretty again!”)

This film is so odd and strange and wonderfully wild that even Troma didn’t know how to best market it. During its initial theatrical release, Student Confidential received a half-hearted Class of 1984 style ad campaign, which really falls short in capturing the film’s true essence. (You wonder what audiences thought of it who bought a ticket based on that poster art.) The artwork for the DVD tease is a wonky National Enquirer-esque cover playing up some of the film’s virtues. Honestly, neither piece of art comes close to capturing the absolute gonzo delights this crazy “drive-in drama” offers.

Exploring: ’80s Comedies

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robert Freese has been a staff writer for Videoscope Magazine since 1998. He also contributes to Drive-in Asylum

Film scholars are forever writing about the 1980’s horror movie scene. I won’t lie. It was an awesome time. But it was an awesome time for all kinds of movies.

A little exploration quickly proves that the ‘80s were a banner decade for comedy movies as well, of all types. Comedies of the era moved in the same exact trajectory the horror movies were following, building on past successful films and constantly pushing the envelope of what had been done further. (Many of the people who made these comedies, both in front of and behind the camera, worked concurrently in the horror genre throughout the decade as well. The high school screamers in the slasher movies were the same party-hearty kids in the comedies.)

What I’ve tried to do is nail down these movies into a specific comedy subgenre and show where they may have originated. (One box office blockbuster begets numerous, sometimes seemingly countless, imitators.) In trying to categorize these movies, I realized many combine various different comedy subgenre plot points simultaneously. There’s a thin line between a Teen Sex Comedy and a Snobs vs. Slobs Comedy, but within my attempt to define flicks, I placed them in the categories I felt they best fit. Any number of my selections can easily be questioned and rationalized for inclusion in a different category, I’m sure. My intent is to simply try and show the diversity of these comedy movies from my favorite decade showed.

I hope I get you curious enough about some of these movies and you seek them out. I believe all are available on some format of home video, analog or digital. 

80s

Snobs vs Slobs/Loveable Losers/Men Behaving Badly

Although a good number of 80’s comedies concern some clash with authority, the movies we’re talking about can be seen as “David and Goliath” tales. These movies have been around forever, but they were given a new life at the end of the ‘70s with the one-two punch success of National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978) and Meatballs (1979). These movies earned astronomical amounts of money back when movie tickets were about two dollars and fifty cents. National Lampoon genius and Animal House co-writer Doug Kenny barreled into the ‘80s with a film that is possibly one of the most quoted movies of all time, the ultimate Snobs vs Slobs movie, Caddyshack (1980). As the decade moved forward, plenty of slackers and losers raged against the establishment in films like Mad Magazine’s Up the Academy (1980), Stripes (1981), the video game-inspired Joy Sticks (1983) and D.C. Cab (1983). When 1984 rolled around, there was a renaissance of sorts of lovable losers bucking authority. Early in the year Warner Brothers had a surprise hit with Police Academy (1984), which provided the new template for what misfits could do when they put their super powers together. Later that summer, 20th Century Fox released Tom Hanks’ finest film to date,  the ultimate lovable losers/men behaving badly movie, Bachelor Party (1984). For as big a success as it was, they outdid it with their next comedy hit, Revenge of the Nerds (1984) the same summer. 1984 was the year for misfits, geeks and dweebs. This subgenre also includes any film wherein the misfit heroes have to deal with insurmountable circumstances to win at some contest against the crooked authority figures, such as Savage Steve Holland’s hilarious One Crazy Summer (1986), which ends with one such boat race where our heroes try to save grandma’s house from evil and corrupt land developers.

Caddyshack (1980)/ Gas (1981)/ Lunch Wagon (1981)/ Stripes (1981)/ The Beach Girls (1982)/ Splitz (1982)/ D. C. Cab (1983)/ Easy Money (1983)/ Get Crazy (1983)/ Joy Sticks (1983)/Bachelor Party (1984)/ Hot Dog…The Movie (1984)/ Oddballs (1984)/ Police Academy (1984)/ Revenge of the Nerds (1984)/ Snowballin’ (1984)/ Up the Creek (1984)/Weekend Pass (1984)/Beer (1985)/ Moving Violations (1985)/ My Chauffeur (1984)/ Real Genius (1985)/ Stitches (1985)/ Tomboy (1985)/ Back to School (1986)/ Hamburger the Motion Picture (1986)/ Happy Hour (1986)/ Jocks (1986)/ One Crazy Summer (1986)/ Playing for Keeps (1986)/ Recruits (1986)/ Wimps (1986)/ Party Camp (1987)/ Summer School (1987)/ How I Got into College (1989)/ Weekend at Bernie’s (1989) 

Sex Comedies/Teen Sex Comedies

After the Snobs vs Slobs subgenre, the next popular and most common comedy subgenre of the ‘80s is the Sex Comedies/Teen Sex Comedies, or what I’ve always referred to as the “Everybody gets laid” movies. Sex comedies have been around as long as cinema itself but by the ‘70s, sex in cinema experienced new-found freedoms with skin on screen. By the ‘80s, these movies had figured out their money-making formula. The Teen Sex Comedies’ popularity mirrors that of the other popular cinema craze that started in the early ‘80s, the slasher movie. Slasher movies were a horror off-shoot that usually revolved around teen sex and hijinks that ultimately resulted in death, usually in a glorious manner. The Teen Sex Comedies cut out the death and added more skin. With that in mind, Friday the 13th (1980) was to slasher movies what Porky’s (1981) was to Teen Sex Comedies. Bob Clark’s mix of raunchy humor and sweet nostalgia for growing up in Florida during the ‘50s was a runaway success. It was so popular they could not make a sequel fast enough so the following year they just re-released it. With Porky’s, the die was cast. Sex comedies were even cheaper to make than slashers movies, and as long as all the people in them were pretty to look at, they made money. The list of these titles seemed endless and their popularity seemed destined to last forever, but they eventually dried up, as late night pay cable channels started programming more raunchy shows to attract the same crowd. (Teen Sex Comedies experienced a major resurgence in 1999 with the release of American Pie and one or two still get made every now and again.) These movies also often work as wish-fulfillment or fantasy tales, at times dealing with secret potions, supernatural themes or, literally, deals with the devil. Movies appearing on this list use these plot points as a way to engage in sex with the opposite sex. 

Pick Up Summer (1980)/ Goin’ All the Way (1981)/ Porky’s (1981)/ Private Lessons (1981)/ Waitress! (1981) Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)/ The Last American Virgin (1982)/ Let’s Do It! (1982)/ Pink Motel (1982)/ Zapped (1982)/ Class (1983)/ The First Turn-On! (1983)/ Losing It (1983)/ My Tutor (1983)/ Porky’s II: The Next Day (1983)/ Private School (1983)/ Screwballs (1983)/ Spring Break (1983)/ Blame it on Rio (1984)/ Delta Pi /Mugsy’s Girls (1984)/ Hardbodies (1984)/ Hollywood Hot Tubs (1984)/ Joy of Sex (1984)/ The Party Animal (1984)/ Preppies (1984)/ The Rosebud Beach Hotel (1984)/ Where the Boys Are ’84 (1984)/ Cave Girl (1985)/ The First Turn On (1985)/ Fraternity Vacation (1985)/ Hot Chili (1985)/ Hot Resort (1985)/ Loose Screws (1985)/ Mischief (1985)/ Paradise Motel (1985)/ School Spirit (1985)/ Screen Test (1985)/  Takin it Off (1985)/ The Malibu Bikini Shop (1986)/ Separate Vacations (1986)/ Sex Appeal (1986)/ Stewardess School (1986)/ Beach Fever (1987)/ Party Favors (1987)/ Takin’ It All Off (1987)/ Beach Balls (1988)/ Fast Food (1989)/ Summer Jobs (1989) 

The Parody/ Spoof/Send-up/Take-off

These movies live or die based on an audiences’ familiarity with whatever subject is being roasted. They can be an acquired taste, since the broad, rapid fire delivery of nonstop sight gags and nonsense jokes are not everybody’s cup of laughs. The team of Jim Abraham and David and Jerry Zucker skewered the popular 70’s trend of disaster movies in general and the 1957 food-poisoning-on-an-airplane thriller Zero Hour! specifically with their smash hit Airplane! (1980). This joke-a-second spoof proved fertile ground for low brow hijinks and opened the flood gates for parodies that are still being made today. The ZAZ team returned with the spy movie/beach movie/Elvis movie send-up Top Secret (1984) and then The Naked Gun (1988), which was the big screen adaptation of their short lived television show Police Squad! (1982). All manner of movie genres were spoofed over the decade, but the one genre that really took to the parody/spoof format was the horror genre, creating an almost sub-category of spoof slasher and horror parodies. Horror spoofs flooded screens big and small throughout the decade and included Student Bodies (1981), Jekyll & Hyde…Together Again (1982), Wacko (1983), Transylvania 6-5000 (1985), Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers (1988) and Lobster Man from Mars (1988), to name a few. This subgenre of horror parody/spoof got a second life in the early 2000’s. Many of the parody-spoofs had an appearance by Leslie Nielson, who re-created himself with his deadpan, stoic performance in Airplane! His career got a second life in comedy, after many decades of playing heavies and bad guys. It is interesting to note that the spoof premise also helped morph into what today is referred to as the “mockumentary,” the spoof documentary. The fascinating This is Spinal Tap (1984) is still the best and every mockumentary since owes its existence to this one film. 

Airplane! (1980)/ Dr. Heckyl and Mr. Hype (1980)/ Full Moon High (1981)/Saturday the 14th (1981)/Student Bodies (1981)/Airplane II: The Sequel (1982)/ Young Doctors in Love (1982)/ Hysterical (1983)/ Jekyll & Hyde…Together Again (1982)/ National Lampoon’s Class Reunion (1982)/ Wacko (1983)/ Bloodbath in the House of Death (1984)/ Johnny Dangerously (1984)/ This is Spinal Tap (1984)/ Top Secret (1984)/ Rustlers’ Rhapsody (1985)/ Transylvania 6-5000 (1985)/ When Nature Calls (1985)/ Back to the Beach (1987)/ Spaceballs (1987)/  Elvira- Mistress of the Dark (1988)/ Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers (1988)/ I’m Gonna Git You Sucka (1988)/ Return of the Killer Tomatoes (1988)/ Lobster Man from Mars (1989)/ Transylvania Twist (1989)

The Hustle/The Con/ The Fake I.D.

The premise for The Hustle/Con comedies usually concerns a fast-thinking protagonist in some dire situation who needs to be someone else to get out of said situation. Movies of this nature have been around for decades, most centering on con men types trying to take advantage of some poor mark or an ill-begotten fortuitous situation. Sometimes it is a situation of mistaken identity or someone taking on a number of personas to get out of comedic situations. After the dawn of Saturday Night Live and that first batch of Not Ready for Prime Time Players trickled into Hollywood, The Hustle/Con type comedies were recharged and redefined. First up to bat from SNL was Dan Aykroyd in Doctor Detroit (1983), the quintessential Hustle/Con comedy. By day Dan plays an uptight college professor but at night transforms into a crazy haired, metal gloved pimp to keep four pimpless hookers safe from harm. During the movie’s finale he has two simultaneous engagements at a swanky hotel where he must divide his time between a formal dinner for the college and the annual Player’s Ball, respectively. It’s madcap comedy of the highest degree. Later in ’83 Aykroyd returned for a different kind of con, swapping lives with a street smart Eddie Murphy in Trading Places (1983). Murphy went on to perfect the Fake I.D. comedy schtick in Beverly Hills Cop (1984), wherein he plays fast-talking Axel Foley, a Detroit cop who uses his wits, and oft times transforms into different characters to collect information, to solve the murder of his friend. Chevy Chase played a similar type private eye in Fletch (1985), depending on costumes and disguises to collect the clues he needed to solve cases. SCTV alumni John Candy and Eugene Levy played security guards that did a little dress up in Armed and Dangerous (1986). There is plenty deception in high school  and one of the best of the high school set Hustle/Con movies ever made is 1987’s Can’t Buy Me Love. Unpopular Ronald Miller (played by Patrick Dempsey) gets popular girl Cindy Mancini (played by Amanda Peterson) out of trouble in exchange for her pretending to like him so he can move up the social ladder of high school, dump his nerd friends and infiltrate the circle of popular kids. It works amazingly well until it all comes crashing down around him. After that, the student body questions the motives of everyone, and if anyone seems to be trying to take advantage of someone else, they accuse them of trying to play another “Ronnie Miller Scam.” I know many who still use this phrase today. “Man! The two for one cans of corn are sold out, and now I have to buy the expensive canned corn! This is a Ronnie Miller Scam!” 

Night Shift (1982)/ Tootsie (1982)/ Doctor Detroit (1983)/ Trading Places (1983)/ Beverly Hills Cop (1984)/ Making the Grade (1984)/ Oh, God! You Devil (1984)/ Fletch (1985)/ Just One of the Guys (1985)/ Volunteers (1985)/ Armed and Dangerous (1986)/ Three Amigos! (1986)/ Can’t Buy Me Love (1987)/ Hiding Out (1987)/ The Secret of My Success (1987)/ Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)/ Tapeheads (1988)

Wish Fulfillment/Fantasy/Time Travel/Body Swap

The premise for these comedies revolves around, usually, the granting of a wish, the using of a potion, the gaining of some extra sensory power, two people swapping bodies or sharing one body or personality or a straight up time jump from one place in time to the other. Wish Fulfillment comedies straddle the fence, as it can be similar to the Snobs vs Slobs and Sex Comedies. Many of the Wish Fulfillment movies are very blue collar based, with regular people like you and me getting a moment to shine, or just following through with some crazy plan to get on top. Three housewives strike back at the system with an elaborate plan to heist money from a giveaway at the mall in How to Beat the High Cost of Living (1980). A newly appointed executive bucks the system when he has to go back to his hometown to shut down the local brewery in Take This Job and Shove It (1981). Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin share the same body in the still pretty funny All of Me (1984). 1985 was a huge year for Michael J. Fox. First he traveled back to the fifties to change his family’s future and make sure his parents smooched at the big “Enchantment Under the Sea” dance in Back to the Future, and then he transformed into a better basketballer through lycanthropy in Teen Wolf. 50’s greaser Lewis Smith died in a chicken run then spent some time in purgatory before being sent back to earth to redeem himself and help a nerd kid be cool in the delightful The Heavenly Kid (1985). Robin Williams gets a do-over for losing the big high school game years later in The Best of Times (1986). Finally, Andrew McCarthy finds love when a department story dummy comes to magical life in Mannequin (1987), a film whose premise was well mined decades earlier as plenty of horny department store mannequins came to life during the era of the Nudie Cuties. 

How to Beat the High Cost of Living (1980)/ Take This Job and Shove It (1981)/ All of Me (1984)/ Back to the Future (1985)/ The Heavenly Kid (1985)/ Teen Wolf (1985)/ Weird Science (1985)/ The Best of Times (1986)/ Peggy Sue Got Married (1986)/ Hello Again! (1987)/ Hunk (1987)/ Like Father, Like Son (1987)/ Mannequin (1987)/ 18 Again! (1988)/ Heathers (1988)/ Vice Versa (1988)/ Back to the Future Part II (1989)

Screwball Comedies 

Screwball Comedies came about in the early 30’s and were a mainstay of popular cinema through the 40’s. Most subscribed to the “Comedy of Errors” plot, where stories revolved around characters in love and they face a number of crazy, calculated misinterpretations and misunderstandings. By the ‘70s, the Three’s Company sitcom pretty much mined this premise each week for all it was worth. The ‘80s were full of these types of comedies and an army of loveable scamps faced these “love and bad luck” challenges. 1985 was a big year for screwball comedies. Secret Admirer’s thin premise hinged on a love letter that made it into the hands of all the wrong people and shenanigans ensued. Summer Rental saw John Candy trying to get away from the rigors of daily life and nearly losing his mind during his beach vacation with his family. John Cusack is a loveable ne’er do well who decides to snuff himself after his girlfriend breaks up with him in Better Off Dead. 1986’s The Money Pit tests the relationship of Tom Hanks and Shelly Long while they renovate their dream house from Hell, and Charles Grodin takes his family on a cut-rate island getaway in the “kind-of-funny-if-you-like-Charles-Grodin” Last Resort. 

Hardly Working (1980)/ The Nude Bomb (1980)/ Arthur (1981)/ Modern Problems (1981)/ Better Off Dead (1985)/ Brewster’s Millions (1985)/ Clue (1985)/ Secret Admirer (1985)/ Summer Rental (1985)/ The Boss’s Wife (1986)/ Last Resort (1986)/ The Money Pit (1986)/ The Great Outdoors (1988)/ Screwball Hotel (1988)/ The Wrong Guys (1988)

Comedic (Mis) Adventures

Comedic (Mis) Adventure movies usually begin at Point A, and then are all over the map trying to get to Point B. Some never get to Point B, skipping it entirely and landing on Point Q. These movies are shenanigan and hijinks driven and usually build to loud, obnoxious finales. One of the best is still the often-quoted classic The Blues Brothers (1980), which ends in an earthshattering finale that has nearly every law enforcement agency in Illinois, as well as a group of irate Illinois Nazis, converging on the State Tax Accessors Office in Chicago trying to nab Jake and Elwood Blues (played by John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd). In 1983, the National Lampoon brand got a much needed boost with their road comedy National Lampoon’s Vacation. SCTV characters Bob and Doug McKenzie (played by Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas) went on a journey of deception, adventure and tainted beer in The Adventures of Bob & Doug McKenzie: Strange Brew (1983). The Comedic (Mis)Adventure movies have mashed with other genres  many times, delivering such diversity as They Call Me Bruce (1982- Kung-Fu), Yellowbeard (1983- Pirates) and Ice Pirates (1984- science fiction).

The Blues Brothers (1980)/ Galaxina (1980)/ Smokey and the Bandit II (1980)/ Bustin’ Loose (1981)/ Cannonball Run (1981)/ Condorman (1981)/ They Call Me Bruce (1982)/ Tag: The Assassination Game (1982)/ Strange Brew (1983)/ Yellowbeard (1983)/ Vacation (1983)/ Ice Pirates (1984)/ The Lost Empire (1984)/ Gotcha (1985)/ Into the Night (1985)/ Lost in America (1985)/ My Science Project (1985)/ Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)/ Spies Like Us (1985)/ After Hours (1986)/ Free Ride (1986)/ Adventures in Babysitting (1987)/ Hot Pursuit (1987)/ Innerspace (1987)/ Raising Arizona (1987)/ Terminal Exposure (1987)/ Three For the Road (1987)/ Midnight Run (1988)/ The Night Before (1988)

Sketch, Skits & Anthologies

Comedy based skit anthology movies thrived throughout the ‘70s. Movies like The Groove Tube (1975) and Kentucky Fried Movie (1977) delighted audiences on scattershot plotlines made for little money. Also, sketch/skit comedy shows were prominent on television with programs like Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-in (1968-1973), The Carol Burnett Show (1967-1978), The Muppet Show (1976-1981), as well as SCTV (1976-1984) and Saturday Night Live (1975-2019). By the ‘80s, the reliable format seemed to have run out of steam. The first big movie made with the skit comedy structure was a studio picture made for enough money to finance 50 Groove Tube sequels, Mel Brooks’ History of the World Part I (1981). It was one nonstop madcap comedic vignette after another. (“Hitler on Ice” is still a highlight.) In 1981, National Lampoon’s Movie Madness spoofed self-help films, soap operas and police procedural shows. It was touted as “National Lampoon’s first film since Animal House!” It sat on the shelf for a year before finally seeing release in 1982 and failing miserably at the box office. 1983’s Flicks wasn’t released until 1987. It is a comedic homage to the Saturday matinees of yesteryear. It hasn’t been seen since its release on VHS over thirty years ago. The format got a major re-fresh, especially if you were looking for some raunchy laughs similar to the films from the ‘70s with 1987’s Amazon Women on the Moon. The decade ended with another winner that has attained major cult status over the years, “Weird Al” Yankovic’s insane UHF (1989), a gag-a-second send-up of the public access UHF days of the boob tube. (Three decades later and I still run across people who quote from the “Conan the Librarian” and “Spatula City” skits.) I think it is worth noting that a small bit of Sketch/Skit DNA be credited to the current “Mocumentary” films, which are direct descendants of the Parody Spoof Comedies. The structure of many “Mocumentary” films follow a similar Sketch/Skit format, with a number of interwoven vignettes, all on the same subject, telling one story rather than various.

Mel Brooks’ History of the World Part I (1981)/ National Lampoon’s Movie Madness (1981)/ It Came From Hollywood (1982)/ Flicks (1983)/ Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (1983)/ Amazon Women from the Moon (1987)/ UHF (1989)

Horror Comedies/ Gore Comedies/ Yech! for Yuks!

Not to be confused with the Horror Parody/Spoof movies, Horror Comedies are movies that play their scares for chuckles instead of screams and land more sure footedly in the horror genre rather than comedy. In the beginning of the decade, the Horror Comedy actually did a good job juggling honest scares with honest laughs with such films as An American Werewolf in London (1981), The Howling (1981) and The Return of the Living Dead (1985). By decade’s end, the monsters were pretty much the butt of the joke in Return of the Living Dead Part II (1987) and CHUD II: Bud the CHUD (1988). The Horror Comedies have always been hit or miss depending on your sense of humor, but every now and again a pretty good one comes along like I Was A Teenage Zombie (1987) or Lucky Stiff (1989- a cannibal comedy directed by Anthony Perkins). Also, in the mid-80’s, Gore Comedies were big. In the spirit of the early gore movies by Herschell Gordon Lewis, The Toxic Avenger (1984), Blood Diner (1987) and movies of their ilk offered over the top gore gross-outs for laughs.

An American Werewolf in London (1981)/ Slumber Party Massacre (1982)/ Microwave Massacre (1983)/ Ghoulies (1984)/ Gremlins (1984)/ The Toxic Avenger (1984)/ Return of the Living Dead (1985)/ Re-Animator (1985)/ The Stuff (1985)/ Class of Nuke ‘em High (1986)/ Evil Laugh (1986)/ House (1986)/ Psychos in Love (1986)/  Terror Vision (1986)/ Troll (1986)/ The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 (1986)/ Vamp (1986)/ Bad Taste (1987)/ Blood Diner (1987)/ Doom Asylum (1987)/ I Was A Teenage Zombie (1987)/ Return of the Living Dead Part 2 (1987)/ Street Trash (1987)/ CHUD II: Bud the CHUD (1988)/ Dead Heat (1988)/ Scared Stiff (1988)/ Vampire’s Kiss (1988)/ Blood Salvage (1989)/ Cutting Class (1989)/ Lucky Stiff (1989)/ Parents (1989)

Bizzaro/Cult/Weird

Bizzaro Comedies tend to be head scratchers. Some of them see it as their mission to offend everyone watching while others you watch and watch and by movie’s end you have no idea what you just saw.  Many are experimental, made to challenge an audience. Most work best as a midnight movie experience; with a rambunctious audience where the on screen weirdness works more on the collective audience as opposed to trying to watch it alone on the couch. Richard Elfman’s Forbidden Zone (1980) is a perfect example of this comedy subgenre, as well as just about anything made by John Waters. (Back during the video store days, Waters’ films were almost always found in the Comedy section of the shop, but many rental outlets eventually created a Cult Movie section because of Waters’ and similar movies.)  Al Adamson’s family film Carnival Magic (1982) probably wouldn’t be included here if the chimpanzee in the film didn’t start talking for no good reason. (Seriously!) Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi played against type for the upside-down tale of suburban torture Neighbors (1981). I don’t even know how to describe Going Berserk (1983), a very strange film featuring John Candy and Eugene Levy doing very strange things. Paranoia in the suburbs makes everyone in a cul-de-sac lose their minds in the trippy, sometimes nightmarish The ‘Burbs (1989). Finally, for a bit of meta-weirdness, Penn & Teller Get Killed (1989) feature the shock magicians as themselves, appearing on a late night talk show and wishing out loud that it would be fun if someone was trying to kill them. This premise plays out as a psycho fan takes their request to heart and stalks them. It’s got lots of weird twists and turns, but it is exactly what you’d expect from P&T.

Forbidden Zone (1980)/ Neighbors (1981)/ Polyester (1981)/ Carnival Magic (1982)/ Eating Raoul (1982)/ Going Berserk (1983)/ Nothing Lasts Forever (1984)/ Repo Man (1984)/ Surf II (1984)/ The ‘Burbs (1989)/ Penn & Teller Get Killed (1989)