Exploring: Eddie Van Halen on Film

February 10, 1978: a day that changed hard rock music forever with the release Van Halen’s self-titled debut album.

Fueled by the FM radio hits of “Eruption,” “You Really Got Me,” “Ain’t Talkin’ ’bout Love,” “Running with the Devil,” and “Jamie’s Cryin'” the album eventually broke the U.S Billboard Album Top 20 to peak at #19 and sell more than a Diamond-certification of 10 million copies in the U.S. Not bad for an album that had its start as a three-track demo in 1976 financed by Gene Simmons of Kiss. The album was eventually recorded by ex-Harpers Bizarre guitarist and Doobie Brothers producer Ted Templeman in three weeks in October of 1977 at a cost of $40,000. And we’re grateful that Gene was unable to shanghai Eddie into Kiss (to replace Ace Frehley). And that Eddie convinced Ted that replacing Dave with Sammy Hagar and grafting Eddie into a Montrose reboot wasn’t going to happen.

The Pasadena rock scene where Van Halen developed their sound was hungry and competitive. Not every band that got a major-label deal “made it” to the top of the charts: most ended up in the cut out bins.

One of the bands sharing stages with the various incarnations of Van Halen — as Wolfgang and Mammoth, and then, Van Halen — was fellow Pasadena rockers Rockits. Led by guitarist and vocalist Brian Naughton, he was knockin’ around the L.A. rock scene since his first deal on MGM Records in 1970 with his Montrose-Van Halen precursor Rock Candy, along with tenures in the line-ups of hippie-rockers the Peanut Butter Conspiracy and Top 40 darlings the Grass Roots.

Sadly, unlike Van Halen’s deal with Warner Bros., the later known Rockicks’* deal with Robert Stigwood’s RSO Records (yes, home of the Bee Gees) failed to send their album, 1977’s Outside, up the charts. Also on that same local L.A. rock scene was a band that — unlike Van Halen and Rockicks — couldn’t get a deal (and when they did, it was in Japan). It was a band that featured a young ax slinger by the name of Randy Rhodes; a band that shared management and rehearsal space with Rockicks: Quiet Riot. And how can we forget Sorcery, who ended up in the films — as actors and soundtrack contributors — Stunt Rock and Rocktober Blood.

Image Left: Van Halen gig from December 1976, courtesy of The Roth Army Facebook/Image Right: Quiet Riot and Rockicks feature articles in a 1977 issue of L.A. rag Raw Power, courtesy of Scott Stephens.com.

And it wasn’t long after that little ol’ band from Pasadena starting out at the Whisky a Go Go and the Starwood was opening shows for Journey, Montrose (discovered and produced by Templeman, the band once featured Van Halen’s next lead singer), and Black Sabbath. Of course, the uppity critics at Rolling Stone and Village Voice hated Van Halen. But the fans loved them. And soon, the TV and film studios came-a-callin’. Between TV series and films — with lots of song repeats (“Jump,” “Panama,” and “Hot for Teacher” mostly) — Eddie amassed 100-plus credits.

Here’s the Top 10 highlights.


WKRP in Cincinnati “Hold Up” (1978)
“Atomic Punk”

Before MTV went on the air to break bands, record companies went to MTM Productions to have their bands spun on the faux-airwaves of a little ‘ol AM rocker in Cincinnati.

It’s hard to believe a network TV series could break bands, but this CBS-TV series did. Songs were, in fact, not just incidental, atmospheric pieces, but often tied into the plot of the episode with the DJs announcing the tunes. The Boyzz, which had their debut release out on CBS-affiliated Cleveland Int’l Records, were spun by Dr. Johnny Fever. Capitol’s Durocks had their poster/album featured on the show. Detective (signed to Led Zeppelin’s Swan Song label) led by Michael Des Barres, had three songs featured on the show. And the show’s use of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” is credited with breaking the band in the U.S. In a show of appreciation, the band’s label, Chrysalis, presented the show’s producers with a gold album that was used as a set piece in the sales bullpen during the second, third, and forth seasons.

Another band “broke” — in the fifth episode of the first season, “Hold Up” (the inept Herb Tarlek makes a mess of a Dr. Johnny Fever remote at Del’s Stereo Shop) — was Van Halen with “Atomic Punk” from their debut album.

Sadly, our opportunity to revisit “Atomic Punk” — as well as most other songs featured on the show — is forever lost due to music licensing issues. MTM Productions’ song licenses expired in the mid-1990s and it proved too expensive to renew, so today’s syndicated and DVD home video versions now have those songs replaced with stock music. Your only hope is to find grey market VHS (now DVDs) box sets of the series taped-from-TV during the series’ initial network and pre-’90s syndication runs to watch-hear the series in its original state. (The Shout Factory DVD box set was able to reproduce most of Season One with 80 percent of the original music intact.)

Series producer Hugh Wilson explains the music licensing issues on You Tube, while superfan Mike Hernandez created an episode-by-episode Google Spreadsheet of every band and song featured on the series. He also created Google Graphs showing a song’s chart performance before and after its appearance on the series. (Be sure to check out our review proper of the movie FM with more about the relationship between that film and the series.)

Van Halen “live off the board” at their last show at the Pasadena Civic Center with “Atomic Punk” before the release of their debut album.


Over the Edge (1979)
“You Really Got Me”

The digital content managers at the IMDb fell asleep at the data entry terminal by not including this film in Eddie’s soundtrack credits; for this second film from Orion Pictures (their first was the Diane Lane-starring A Little Romance) served as Van Halen’s big screen debut. You’ll remember Van Halen’s cover of the Kinks’ classic playing in the background of the house party scene where Carl only has eyes for Corey — who’s making out on the couch with Mark.

Sadly, the film’s eight-city test run was scuttled by negative publicity surrounding youth gang films such as The Warriors, Boulevard Nights, and Defiance — where actual violence broke out in the theaters between the gang rivals in the audience. The film, of course, found a cult audience on HBO and introduced the “new” sounds of not only Van Halen, but the Cars, the Ramones, and Cheap Trick to us youngins. And, since the film was scuttled, so was the soundtrack: us wee lads n’ lassies picked it up in the $1.00 cut out bins — and rocked.

And Kurt Cobain was one of us back then.

  • We go a deeper into the backstory of Over the Edge in our review of its sister film, River’s Edge.

The Wild Life (1984) and Back to the Future (1985)
“Donut City” and “Out the Window”

No one remembers Cameron Crowe’s follow up to Fast Times at Ridgemont High, which served as Eddie’s first film score. (Yes, he’s done others!) Recorded around the time of Van Halen’s sixth album, 1984, it features all new, instrumental tunes. A true solo effort, Eddie scored the entire film playing guitar along with an electronic drum machine.

Sadly, while many pieces of his music are in the film, only “Donut City” appears on the official motion picture soundtrack (Discogs). And thanks to those pesky licensing issues, the soundtrack has never been released on CD. You can, however, enjoy Eddie’s work from the soundtrack courtesy of a playlist on the official Van Halen Vault You Tube page.

Astute Van Halenites will recognize three musical vignettes from The Wild Life became the basis for three, later Van Halen songs: “Good Enough” from 1986’s 5150, “Right Now” from 1991’s For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, and “Blood and Fire” from their final album, 2012’s A Different Kind Of Truth. The fourth, “Out the Window,” was later recycled in Back to Future. You’ll remember when Marty McFly — in a yellow hazmat suit as “Darth Vadar from Vulcan” — played the song to a headphoned George McFly.

  • Be sure to check out our full review of The Wild Life, coming soon, as result of its upcoming Kino restoration reissue.

The Seduction of Gina (1984)
Soundtrack Composer

Closing out her sitcom career with One Day at Time in 1984, and while the “Big Three” networks were still making TV movies, Valerie Bertinelli produced this CBS telefilm that deals with a newly-married and bored housewife who develops a gambling addiction. And Val brought on her husband to compose the soundtrack.

At the time of producing this film, Bertinelli was also in the running for Lori Singer’s role in 1984’s Footloose. Imagine Kevin Bacon boppin’ around to a score by Eddie Van Halen — Eddie Rabbit be damned. Or was that Kenny Loggins? I always get the two confused.

Eddie would go onto compose the theme music to Valerie’s next CBS-TV series, 1990’s short-lived Sydney. The show used “Finished What You Started” from OU812 and it’s said that Eddie also composed uncredited instrumentals throughout the series’ thirteen episodes.

Sigh . . . there was a You Tube clip — the only clip — of the film’s opening titles featuring Eddie’s music. It was posted for a few years . . . and right before we went press, the film’s copyright holder scrubbed the clip from You Tube. So we found this Nicki Swift report on Eddie and Val’s divorce to watch.


Better Off Dead (1985)
“Everybody Wants Some”

Then Eddie became a hamburger . . . in this mostly autobiographical film by Savage Steve Holland. According to Holland, he really was suicidal when his high school girlfriend left him for the captain of the ski team. Also, he really did have a paperboy who’d harass him for two dollars. And, when the film came out, his ex-girlfriend contacted him to apologize.

And the biographical continues . . . as the film’s infamous claymation hamburger scene was inspired by Holland’s first job working at McDonald’s. And while John Cusack went on record as hating this movie and chewed out Holland for it, Eddie VH’s “big scene” was the highest testing scene when the film was screened by audiences. The burger, of course, plays “Everybody Wants Some” from Van Halen’s third album, 1980’s Women and Children First. The burger also plays a guitar resembling Eddie’s Frankenstrat.

Regardless of “Claymation Eddie” being the only part of the movie we remember, “Everybody Wants Some” does not appear on the soundtrack (Discogs). The soundtrack does, however, feature two tunes from co-star E.G Daily (Pee Wee’s Big Adventure) and one from Terri Nunn of Berlin. And we wished Eddie wrote the entire soundtrack instead of Fixx producer Rubert Hine. And we thank Richard Linklater for using the song in his 2000 film named after the song.


Airheads (1994)
“I’m the One”

Why did they use the super annoying cover from the super annoying, didn’t-even-deserve-their-one hit wonder 4-Non Blondes instead of the Van Halen original? What gives Ian the Shark? KMPX is an Active Rock station, right? Wouldn’t Van Halen be on the station’s “Gold” rotation? Why not add the friggin’ Spin Doctors and Crash Test Dummies to the playlist while you’re at it? And we love Anthrax . . . but not when they’re covering the Smiths. Or friggin’ Joe Jackson. Where’s “Metal Trashin’ Mad” when you need it to spin?

Well . . . at least we got a get very cool dig at Sammy Hagar, which exposed Harold Ramis as a cop-cum-bogus record executive.

  • Be sure to check out our review proper of Airheads.

Twister (1996)
“Humans Being” and “Respect the Wind”

Could you imagine the above scene from Airheads ripping Patty Smyth of Scandal or Daryl Hall of Hall & Oates? Well, before Sammy Hagar joined, Eddie approached both singers — who turned down the offer. Yikes, talk about “thinking outside of the box,” right?

And could you imagine a world where Micheal Crichton became a “Yoko Ono” and broke up Van Hagar — and gifted us with Van Cherone? Well, it happened.

After completing their support slot on Bon Jovi’s European Summer stadium tour — which served to promote 1995’s Balance, VH’s then tenth album overall and fourth studio album with Sammy Hagar — Van Halen was contractually obligated to record two original songs for the Twister soundtrack. Hagar, who was against the Warner Bros. project to start with, wanted time off with his family, as he was expecting the birth of a child. And Eddie read him the riot act about what it means to be in a group. And Hagar ranted that being in a group sucks and he’d rather be a solo artist (no wonder the mighty Montrose — the Hagar version we cared about — fell apart after two albums). (Montrose bassist-keyboardist Alan Fitzgerald, who ended up in Night Ranger, served as VH’s off-stage/touring keyboardist from the early ’90s until the early 2000s.)

But Hagar, reluctantly, wrote and recorded “Humans Being.” And Eddie, unhappy with Sammy’s lyrics and halfhearted attempt, re-wrote the melody and re-titled the song, originally known as “Shine On.” And Eddie turned the song into, what is practically, an instrumental. And it sounds exactly like the shitty Van Halen B-Side not-suitable-for-a-studio-album outtake that it is.

Hagar was pissed.

And when it came time to record the second song, Hagar split for Hawaii. So the Van Halen brothers, with Alex on keyboards, alone recorded the instrumental “Respect the Wind,” which got dumped onto the film’s end credits. Is it the best end credits song ever? Yes. But surely Warner Bros. Pictures was expecting something more from Van Halen.


Mission to Mars (2000)
“Dance the Night Away”

What can you say about a movie that features astronauts spouting cheesy lines such as, “Okay, we’re ready to light this candle,” playing with M&M’s in zero gravity, product-placing astro-bags of Coca-Cola to seal hull breeches, and eventually gets turned into a Walt Disney theme park attraction?

Only that it gets worse: Gary Sinise wears eye liner throughout the film. The alien is CGI-hokey. And the crew dances in the ship’s zero gravity hub to a tune from Van Halen II. Where’s that copy of Hammer Films’ Moon Zero Two from 1969 when you need it?

Man, you just want to puke. And that’s not the zero-gravity sickness talking.


Sacred Sin (2006)
“Rise” and “Catherine”

After three lead singers and almost thirty years across eleven studio albums — the last being 1998’s critical and chart-flopping Van Halen III featuring ex-Extreme singer Gary Cherone — Eddie moved into the world of adult films.

If you go into this “Gothic ghost tale” expecting “Eruption” from Van Halen I or “Saturday Afternoon in the Park,” which served as the dark, instrumental opening to “One Foot Out the Door,” the closing track from Van Halen’s fourth album, Fair Warning, you’ll be disappointed. Don’t expect the heavy darkness of “Intruder,” the instrumental opening to “Pretty Woman” from Van Halen’s fifth album, 1982’s Diver Down; expect the lighter “Cathedral” from that same album. These two tracks, written for Eddie’s longtime friend, Micheal Ninn, are closer to “Baluchitherium” from Balance and “Respect the Wind” from the Twister soundtrack.

According to Eddie, in speaking to industry website AVN, his working on a porn film was no big deal. He was simply working with and helping a friend with his film, whose work he respected. In addition to the songs, Eddie, who also served as the film’s executive producer, provides a series of atmospheric piano interludes throughout the film.


Eddie the Actor
Frazier, Cafe Americain, and Two and a Half Men

Eddie was one of the many celebrity callers — as was the schtick of the series — as Hank on “Call Me Irresponsible,” a 1993 season one episode of Frazier. Of course, that voice-guest part was result of Eddie being on the Warners Bros. lot for the shooting of his wife Valerie Bertinelli’s failed, one-season series Cafe Americain, where he played a “Street Musician” in the series’ seventh episode, “Home Alone.” For his only on-camera speaking role, he performed “Two Burritos and a Root Beer Float” on “818-jklpuzo,” the first episode of the seventh season from CBS-TV’s Two and a Half Men.

Edward Lodewijk Van Halen
January 26, 1955 – October 6, 2020

We’ll never look at or hear the guitar the same way again.
You were our Mozart, Beethoven, and Bach.

“What time is it?”

“7:14”

“Quaalude, Quaalude.”

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

* You can learn more about the career of Brian Naughton and L.A.’s Rockicks with the Medium article “Sometimes you’re Kiss . . . and sometimes you’re Rockicks: Phantoms from the Rock ’n’ Roll Oblivion.”

The Birth of the Slasher Film and the Influential Slashers That Have Kept Them Alive

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robert Freese contributes regularly to Videoscope, Drive-in Asylum, Grindhouse Purgatoryand the Italian language genre magazine Nocturno, as well as the Lunchmeat VHS blog. His interview with Italian screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti and his creation of the slasher film was the featured article for Rue Morgue’s 23rd Anniversary Halloween Issue. Earlier in the year he wrote about a science-fiction movie Mario Bava almost made with Roger Corman for the Videoscope website. He also contributes blogs about films and fiction for the library system he works for, as well as co-hosts the podcast, Two Librarians Walk into a Shelf, which kicked off October chatting with best-selling horror author Grady Hendrix.

Much like the creeping lunatics that stalk their prey in the films we’re about to discuss, the slasher genre seems to have no end. The maniacs continue to kill in creative fashion year after year, with new fans going back to learn their slasher history and unearth the films that are now considered classic examples of the genre. 

Where did it begin? We all have our own theory, fans of the slice-and-dice. As a fan, as someone who enjoys the history of cinema in general and horror cinema specifically, I have my own theory on where these lowly regarded but much-loved films experienced their birth. The slasher film is a beast of many fathers.

There’s no doubt that Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho in 1960 is the granddaddy of bloody knife pictures. All the trappings are there: disturbed young man next door, woman in shower, knife, mummified mom in the root cellar. It is a crime story, a mystery, thriller, that is clearly comfortable being described as “horror,” but is it a slasher? I say no, and not because Hitchcock produced it or because it was a studio picture. Let’s be honest, the studio executives didn’t care for the story and couldn’t be bothered to give Hitch enough money to shoot it in color. It was a B-movie from the start, until they saw it and hyped it as an A-movie. Fundamentally, it has the ingredients of a slasher film, but I cannot justify placing it within the slasher canon. 

In Italy, Mario Bava was using his camera like an artist uses a paintbrush to produce the wonderful mystery thrillers that became known as giallo, so referred because they recalled a popular series of Italian mystery paperbacks easily identified by their “yellow” covers. (Giallo is the Italian word for yellow.)

Bava delivered what many consider the first giallo with La ragazza che sapeva troppo / The Girl Who Knew Too Much in 1963. Then in 1964 came his 6 donne per l’assassino / Blood and Black Lace, another influential giallo that highlighted the exaggerated death scenes of the fashion models targeted for extermination. The influence of the Italian giallo cannot be discounted when tracing back the ancestry of the slasher film.

Herschel Gordon Lewis’s Blood Feast in 1963 certainly displayed the kind of gore the slasher genre associated itself with, as well as some bare flesh. Other Lewis titles like Two Thousand Maniacs (1964) and Color Me Blood Red (1964), although closer to what I consider a slasher than Psycho, helped steer the slasher in the right direction, but they can take little more credit than that. (In my mind, these are “gore” movies, similar but different enough not to qualify classification as “slasher.”)

Throughout the remainder of the decade, many “knife-kill” pictures were released, all trying to cash in on that sweet, sweet box office green Psycho earned earlier. (In fact, the influence of Psycho can be seen all the way up to 1980s, with a film like Silent Scream, that was kind of a “slasher-lite” but still a solid shocker in the Psycho mold.)

By early 1970, Dario Argento’s L’uccello dalle piume di cristallo / The Bird with the Crystal Plumage re-invigorated the giallo and Argento was hailed as the new “Hitchcock.” The basic skeleton of the slasher film was there, but still this is not what I consider when I hear the word “slasher.”

Ecologia del delitto/Bay of Blood (1971)

Then in 1971, Mario Bava embarked on another giallo. Working with young screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti, they devised an ever-twisting plot and planned thirteen exaggerated murder sequences to push the boundaries of what had been done before. The film was Ecologia del delitto / Chain Reaction, as it was called during the plotting and then Bay of Blood, the title it is most commonly known by today. Bava and Sacchetti worked not so much on the plot, but on the individual murder set pieces, with the director explaining in detail to his writer what he wanted to accomplish with the scene, how he wanted to utilize the camera and lighting to shoot it. He encouraged Sacchetti to keep pushing, to go big, always with the intention on scaring the audience and exaggerating the violence. It was released in Italy in ’71 and then the United States in ’72, where the film went out under various titles, for numerous releases and re-releases over the years. 

The story revolves around an idyllic piece of lake front property and a number of people trying to attain it after the owner, Countess Federica Donati, is violently murdered by her husband. This is no spoiler, as it happens within the opening moments of the film. 

Murder runs wild in this secluded piece of paradise and the bodies pile up, literally. This is certainly a thriller that you will not get ahead of, as the plot continues to twist and turn right up to its grim finale.

What Bay of Blood has that no other film had up to this time to make me consider it the starting point of the “slasher film movement” is the inclusion of young people, young adults, teenagers. For the first time, right in the middle of a mystery story, two couples show up to do nothing more than get drunk, get high, get laid and get murdered. That, in my opinion is what makes this a true contender for “birth of the slasher film” honors, the inclusion of these young interlopers. 

The giallo almost exclusively revolved around an adult, usually a male, becoming involved with a mystery plot and following clues to solve the mystery. Yes, they involved teens, especially schoolgirls as hapless victims, but the fact these young people show up to “party,” puts it squarely in line with what I consider a slasher film today.

To me, the moment at the beginning when the Countess is killed, and her murder takes off his black gloves (an obvious trope of the giallo) and is revealed to be her husband, this is where I feel Bava and Sacchetti are saying, “Okay, everything you know about the giallo is meaningless. This is not a giallo. This is something different.” Once the black gloves are off, the rules of the giallo no longer apply.

Sacchetti has assured me that that was never the intention. It was just one more way to keep the audience off guard, keep them restless to better hit them with the shocks and frights to come. He warns me time and again that, “journalists and scholars often do reconstructions of pure fantasy.” Meaning, we attribute our own meanings to what we see, whether the filmmakers intended them or not.

To be fair, whatever the intention of the filmmakers, once their film is released, it now belongs to the audience that sits down to watch it. If you’re a fan of the film, and I am, I think it is acceptable to draw such conclusions. I have watched and re-watched it many times over the years, so I feel it belongs to me to a certain degree, as much as it does the people who made it. I am invested in it and pieces of it will have meaning for me that maybe don’t have meaning to other fans, or necessarily was ever the intention of the people who created it. 

Further probing of Bay of Blood reveals that many of the tropes we connect with the slasher film are present here. The film introduces the idea of the anniversary of a past traumatic event resulting in reckless slaughter, partying young people, bare teen flesh, the killer’s Point-of-View, a cast of quirky characters, the oddball groundskeeper/custodian, graphic and spectacular kill scenes, thirteen murders in total, the finding of hidden bodies, multiple red herrings, murderous parental units and a twist ending. These are all standard features of most slasher films.

The earliest American slasher film influenced by Chain Reaction is easily Friday the 13th. In fact, the first five Friday the 13th films take a lot of “inspiration” from this template and go as far as copying most of the on-screen slaughter. (Friday the 13th Part 2, in fact, copies both the snaring of two young  people in bed with a spear murder and combines the idea of snuffing a victim in a wheelchair with the machete-to-the-face murder of another, among others.) To go one step further, if we assume the on-screen drama is playing out within the year it was released, 1971, it is a diary entry from the year previous, made on February 13, that inspires the following year’s massacre. February 13, 1970 was a Friday. Once it was picked up for distribution in North America, Bay of Blood was released numerous times, appearing on screens in the U.S. as late as 1980 and on screens in Canada as late as 1983, under a variety of different titles. Its first U.S. distributor, Hallmark Releasing, released it to theaters in 1972 under the title Last House on the Left, Part II, selling it as a sequel to their 1970 Sean Cunningham, Wes Craven hit Last House on the Left. (It was also released with promotional vomit bags under the title Carnage.) Just considering how long it continued to appear in theatrical re-release, regardless of how wide, all the way into the ‘80s, is testament to how influential it really was to the livelihood of slasher films. (It was then released on home video, where it became available, being re-released onto each new home video format, to be watched and discovered ever since, under the titles Bay of Blood and my personal favorite, Twitch of the Death Nerve.) It is also worth noting that it will be appearing soon on a drive-in screen in Indiana for a Halloween weekend slash-o-rama, so it is still appearing on big screens today.

The film that had the most influence on Bay of Blood is Dario Argento’s Cat O’Nine Tails, but not how you would expect. Cat is a straightforward giallo involving a newspaper reporter and a retired blind reporter following clues left by a murderer. It has few of the aspects of what anyone would consider even remotely related to slasher films, but it is safe to say that if this film had not been made, Bay of Blood may never have been made.

The storyline for Cat O’Nine Tails was written by Dardano Sacchetti. After he and friend Luigi Collo had a chance meeting with Argento, the three became fast friends and began writing a story similar to the then-popular hit Easy Rider. After Bird with a Crystal Plumage became a success, they changed gears and tried to devise another giallo. At some point Argento went away for a vacation and restless that nothing was happening, Sacchetti wrote the scenario for Cat. Upon his return, Argento liked the scenario and Sacchetti began writing the script.

In-house friction concerning how the actual writing credits would be attributed on-screen created ill feelings among the men and all went their separate ways. After the film was released, Argento relayed in a newspaper interview that the plot of Cat came to him in a dream while on vacation. Rightly enraged, Sacchetti contacted the newspaper to dispute Argento’s claim. Sacchetti’s comments caught the attention of producer Giuseppe Zaccariello, who then contacted Sacchetti and that lead to him working with Bava. Cat afforded Sacchetti his first screen credit and although he had more interest in being a poet than a screenwriter, the money was good, and he enjoyed the work. 

It’s worth noting at this point the strange fate of Luigi Collo. Collo befriended Sacchetti and it was Luigi who wanted to meet Argento to discuss with him the world of cinema. Although he loved cinema and desired nothing more than to create films, he is all but forgotten today.

As I communicated with Sacchetti, I kept referring to Luigi Collo as Luigi Cozzi, to the point of Sacchetti asking me why I kept referring to Cozzi, who he didn’t meet until the late 1970s. I explained that everything on-line pointed to Cozzi when you searched information about Collo, suggesting that Collo and Cozzi were the same person.  Sacchetti had no idea and confirmed the same confused information from his own internet searches for Luigi Collo.

When I contacted Luigi Cozzi about this, he confirmed that it has been widely accepted that he and Luigi Collo are the same person, due directly to lazy film reporting. He assures that he and Luigi Collo are not the same person, and he did not work with Argento until Four Flies on Grey Velvet. Forget what the Internet says, it is incorrect. 

Sacchetti commented that Collo had a life of bad breaks and bad decisions that never resulted in a career of making movies. Collo’s love of cinema, however, did result in his participation with at least one feature that has stood the test of time. Nearly fifty years later, Cat O’Nine Tails is still available for fans to discover. Collo’s association with that well-known film, unfortunately, through an unforeseen twist of fate, has seemingly erased his participation from the production, at least as far as the Internet is concerned.

Sacchetti offered one final thought on his memories of Luigi Collo. “He could make movies, but he preferred to live his destiny.”

After Bay of Blood, films about murderers and madmen continued to be made, but most continued to be made in the mold of Psycho. (Slight exceptions would be William Girdler’s 1972 Three on a Meathook, a grisly take on the Psycho template, and Sergio Martino’s I corpi presentano tracce di violenza carnale / Torso in 1973, which foreshadows as an Italian version of the later Roger Corman produced Slumber Party Massacre from 1982.) All that changed Christmas 1974.

Black Christmas (1974)

For many fans, Bob Clark’s Black Christmas (aka Silent Night, Evil Night and Stranger in the House) is the first of the modern slasher film and the origin of the slasher. It is easy to see why, as many of what became cliches of the genre seem to be used for the first time here. If you are unaware of the slasher film’s Italian heritage, this would have been one of the earliest films to use these tropes.

We have a group of All-American (or All-Canadian) young women in a sorority house stalked by an unseen killer in the attic. He stalks the girls one-by-one, eluding capture while possible suspects are constantly introduced. Half of the cast runs around never knowing what the other half is doing or even knowing their location. 

It is a masterful game of cat-and-mouse, both with the killer and his intended victims, and the director and his intended audience. It’s an edge of the seat shocker that includes heavy breathing, madman’s Point-of-View, horny co-eds, creative (but not necessarily bloody- less is more) murders, quirky adult characters, an open-ending and the blood-freezing gimmick of “the lunatic is calling from inside the house!” (1979’s A Stranger is Watching made that gimmick famous, but to be fair, 1973’s The Severed Arm used it first when the killer stalks a radio DJ and calls his late-night program from within the studio.) 

Repeat viewings over time do not diminish the effectiveness of this shocker, and it benefits from Clark’s sense of humor, which helps elevate the horror momentarily before the next scare hits you. Clark’s typical dark humor sees that the film’s first victim, Clare Harrison (played by the wonderful Lynne Griffin) is never found, not even after police arrive on the scene. Her body remains in the attic window as the most twisted Christmas decoration on the block. (I do wonder if anyone ever sets a dummy up in their attic window, dresses it with a plastic bag, lights, and a fake Claude as a Christmas decoration?)

It is worth noting Dario Argento’s 1976 giallo Profondo Rosso / Deep Red, if only because the film’s extreme violence served as obvious inspiration to the glut of 80’s slasher films, particularly Halloween II (1981), which copies its scalding bath water murder.

Halloween (1978)

In 1978 John Carpenter and Debra Hill created the film that really started it all for most of us with their classic horror tale of The Night eE Came Home, Halloween. Although it wasn’t an immediate hit, it built a reputation and a following that is still going strong more than 40 years later. 

In 1963, little Michael Myers chops up his teen sister Judith and then, fifteen years later, breaks out of the asylum and returns home. When he does, he sees teenager Laurie Strode, who must remind him of his sister Judith, because he spends the rest of the day stalking her. Myers’ doctor, Dr. Sam Loomis, arrives in Haddonfield in time to assure the sheriff that “Death has come to your little town!”

It is a simple story, inspired, obviously, by Hitchcock’s Psycho, that came during a turbulent time in the 70’s and gave its audience, mostly teens, something to scream about. 

Halloween is now considered one of the true classics of not only slasher or horror cinema, but just of cinema in general. The opening scene of little Michael killing his sister Judith was as shocking as Janet Leigh’s murder in Psycho eighteen years prior and is now considered just as iconic. It spawned a long running series that continues to this day. It is one of the few slasher films, or “dead teenager movies” as they referred to them, that both critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert enjoyed. It was scary. It is still scary. As I write these words, it is about to be re-released to drive-ins for a whole new generation of fans to scream at. 

Friday the 13th (1980)

While Halloween is always given the credit of starting the slasher trend, I think it is more realistic to say that Friday the 13th in 1980 really started the slasher trend, especially for what most fans consider a slasher film. It was made to do two things, make teens scream and make money. It did both.

Friday the 13th tried to capitalize on the success of Halloween by adding the one thing Halloween didn’t really have, graphic mayhem. Tom Savini’s bloody “magic tricks” splatter the screen and opened the floodgates for every gory slasher that was made after. Kids flocked to the theaters for each new installment and every time a new one came out, Siskel and Ebert complained that it was trash and not nearly as well made or entertaining as Halloween. Be that as it may, as one of the teenagers flocking to the theater to see each new installment, I was there for the cheap thrill of bare boobs and bloody mayhem. Never once did I purchase a ticket for a Friday the 13th film hoping I would learn something meaningful about the human condition or glimpse into the true heart of darkness. Nope. I just wanted 90 minutes of cheap thrills with my friends and they delivered nearly every time.

Slasher movies hit a peak in 1981, with a new one opening up nearly every weekend of the year, some weekends seeing more than one new one released. They were everywhere and every kind of killer you could think of, including killers from beyond the grave, beyond the stars and from supernatural origins. But it was mostly a parade of jilted lovers and obsessed psychopaths that filled the big screens over the following years.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

In 1984, the slasher film got an upgrade from Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street. This was the first new idea in slasher films in years, as Craven introduced a killer who stalked the dreamscape of his victims! When you can’t even hide in your head, nowhere is safe. This one kicked off a spate of rubber-reality dream killers, but none worked as well Craven’s prototype and Fred-heads came back for more time and again for a long running series that finally crossed paths with Friday the 13th decades later.

Scream (1996)

The slasher film had a dry spell for the next couple of years. They still made them, and some where pretty good, but nothing really blew up again until Craven returned in 1996 with the self-referential Scream, a smart slasher that turned slashers on their ear and used all that knowledge film nerds learned from watching them.

This was a modern twist on the genre, as the killer knew very well the tropes of the slasher movies of years before and used them to his advantage. Also, modern times made it easier for killers to be more productive and destructive and the cell phone made it easier to call from anywhere in the world.

The film was a hit and I remember the opening night and a packed house screaming at the top of their lungs during the film’s final moments. It helped to kick off a new cycle of slasher films that were hipper and more self-aware than those that came before. I think I saw nearly all of them in the theater and it was a fun way to say goodbye not only to the decade, but to the twentieth century. (Craven directed the entire series, with Scream 4 appearing in 2011. After, an MTV series followed for two seasons and as of this writing, Scream 5 is moving forward.)

Slasher films proliferated in the early 2000’s but now filmmakers were using CGI for gore, which was a bore. It wasn’t long before many went back to practical effects for more of the “old-school” feel. Some use computer trickery to make them look like old, battered films with cuts and missing scenes. Fun as they may be, they really don’t compare to a 35mm viewing of an old film that has played numerous theaters over the years and is full of genuine splices, missing scenes, and tinted red from wear.

Halloween (2018)

The slasher film to make the biggest impact so far in our brave new world of the twenty-first century has been 2018’s Halloween. Love it or hate it, it delivered a fun slasher vibe and even though it is more remake than sequel, it did well enough to rake in a quarter of a billion dollars in ticket sales worldwide (impressive indeed on a ten million dollar budget), solidifying the slasher film as a reliable money maker. It ensured two more films in the new storyline it created. Not only does its success ensure the slasher is here to stay, American Horror Story dedicated it’s 9th Season 1984, to the beloved slasher films of yore, and delivered some of the freshest retro slash-thrills in a long time. 

Because of the pandemic and the shutdown of indoor theaters, slasher films returned to the drive-ins in 2020 with a vengeance, along with every other horror movie from the past. Families, couples, and friends who just wanted a night out returned to the giant outdoor screens where all variety of classic 70’s and 80’s horror films, slasher and otherwise, returned to live again where they were intended. It does make you ask, “Why do people want to sit in their cars, outside, and watch an old film they could watch streaming anytime they wanted?” 

While more films are consumed through more ways than ever before, especially through countless streaming services, and fewer and fewer are being released theatrically, it seems like there are more slasher films now to choose from than ever before. I continue to watch them, hoping to find the next big thing, as the 15-year-old slasher fan that will always live within me is always hoping for the next big slasher thrill.

These seven films satisfy all the components of what I expect, require from a slasher film, and they all have had some major influence on the genre within the time they were released. Some films that have similar aspects that I don’t consider “slasher” would be The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) and Carrie (1976). Although similar in content, they lack some of the fundamentals required to be considered slashers, and while they come close- Carrie White’s prom night body count alone would make Jason or Freddy blush with envy- they just don’t invoke the same spirit. 

I don’t know, but when I hear someone lump those in with slasher movies, I probably transform into a bit of a “slasher-snob.” I have to remember that these films belong to all of us, and not all of us see them exactly the same way.

Exploring: Movies Based on Songs

Growing up, I always loved story songs instead of ditties that were just verse/chorus/verse. Many of these songs ended up becoming so popular that they transcended just being something you heard on the radio and inspired movies that may or may not have been successful. Here are but a few of the many movies that are based on all manner of songs, particularly story songs.

Please keep in mind that movies that simply take their titles from songs, like Can’t Hardly Wait and Sweet Home Alabama, are not eligible. We want to know what the song is really about!

Also, while some songs come after the movie and become a big deal, like 9 tp 5, we’re looking for movies where the song came first.

We’re also answering a very important question: Does the artist show up in this? After all, don’t we want to see the person who sang the song in the film?

Did we miss any? Let us know!

exploresongs

Take This Job and Shove It (Gus Trikonis, 1981): Written by David Allan Coe and sung by Johnny Paycheck, this country song found even greater success when it became a film directed by the man who brought us Nashville Girl. It’s all about a man (Robert Hayes) trying to keep a brewery alive in his hometown after a major corporation buys it. This has a great early 80’s cast, including Barbara Hershey, Art Carney, Tim Thomerson, Martin Mull, Royal Dano and James Karen.

Does the artist show up? Yes, Paycheck plays “man with hamburger” and Coe is Mooney, who is married to country singer Lacy J. Dalton. Charlie Rich is also in this, if you’re looking for country artists.

Convoy (Sam Peckinpah (James Coburn uncredited), 1978): This C.W. McCall song came on the radio the other day and Becca said, “I bet you love this stupid song.” I sure do. And I love the fact that this movie is somehow the most financially successful of Peckinpah’s long career as well as the reason why Ali McGraw quit cocaine.

Does the artist show up? No.

Big Bad John (Burt Kennedy, 1990): Jimmy Dean’s last film was based on his 1961 song about a couple of kids who elopes to escape the girl’s evil stepfather.

Does the artist show up? He sure does.

The Indian Runner (Sean Penn, 1991): Produced by Steve Bannon — yes, that guy — and written and directed by Sean Penn, this was based on the Springsteen song “Highway Patrolman.” It has a hell of a cast, with a late in his career Charles Bronson showing up.

Does the artist show up? No.

The Legend of Tom Dooley (Ted Post, 1959): Based on the folk song that was recorded by the Kingston Trio in 1958, this movie follows the lyrics of that song more closely than the actual murder case that inspired it. Starring Michael Landon, this was directed by the same man who brought us The Baby.

Does the artist show up? No, as the original murder ballad was written in the previous century.

Alice’s Restaurant (Arthur Penn, 1969): Based on the folk song 1967 folk song “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree”, written and sung by Arlo Guthrie, who also stars in this comedic retelling.

Does the artist show up? Not only is Guthrie in the movie, the real Alice Brock is on hand, as are Stockbridge police chief William Obanhein and Judge James E. Hannon. As to why the cop playing a role that made him look dumb, he told Newsweek that if anyone was going to make him look like a fool, it would be himself.

Born In East L.A. (Cheech Marin, 1987): After the break-up of his comedic team with Tommy Chong, Cheech Marin was invited by executive Frank Price to make his own film. Price was fired because of Howard the Duck, but this was a great decision, as the film based on Cheech and Chong’s Bruce Springsteen parody would be a major success. Marin wrote, directed and…

Does the artist show up? Seguro que lo hace.

Ode to Billy Joe (Max Baer Jr., 1976): You read that correctly. This movie was produced and directed by the former Jethro Bodine. Working with Herman Raucher (who also wrote Summer of ’42), songwriter Bobbie Gentry expanded the story of the song.

Does the artist appear? While this was shot near Gentry’s hometown of Greenwood, Mississippi, she does not appear in the movie.

The Night the Lights Went Out In Georgia (Ronald F. Maxwell, 1981): How strange is this? While this was based on the Vicki Lawrence song, it has a new version of the song in the film, with Tanya Tucker singing, and has changed the words to fit the plot of the movie, which has nothing to do with the song that inspired the film other than the chorus.

Does the artist appear? No, but Mark Hamill does.

Harper Valley P.T.A. (Richard Bennett and Ralph Senensky, 1978): “The song was scandalous. The movie is hilarious!” Jeannie C. Riley was the first woman to have a song top both the country and pop charts — one week apart, but still, quite a feat — at the same time (Dolly Parton would also do this with 9 to 5).

The song comes from singer Margie Singleton had asked Tom T. Hall to write her a song similar to “Ode to Billie Joe.” Hall went so far as to pretty much copy the melody and write new lyrics. There was a rush to get this song out, as Singleton and Billie Jo Spears had already recorded it, but Riley — working as a secretary for songwriter Jerry Chesnut, rushed it out on Plantation Records. That’s the version that stuck with the public.

This Barbara Eden-starring film was so popular that it led to its own TV series.

As for Riley, she found God and went into gospel. She even recorded a sequel to this song, “Return to Harper Valley,” in which Mrs. Johnson goes to a school dance and ends up praying for everyone while revealing what happened to several of the characters. It did not chart, despite being written by Hall and mentioning the Stray Cats.

Does the artist appear? No.

Chattanooga Choo Choo (Bruce Bilson, 1984): As if one song becoming a movie starring Barbara Eden wasn’t enough, here’s another! Based on the 1941 Glenn Miller song, ads promised “The song that kept America chuggin’ along is this summer’s funniest movie!”

Even stranger, both movies were produced by George Edwards, perhaps better known for producing the Curtis Harrington films FrogsQueen of BloodHow Awful About Allan and What’s the Matter with Helen?

Does the artist appear? No, Miller disappeared during World War II and his death remains unsolved.

Copacabana (Waris Hussein, 1985): Dick Clark asked Barry Manilow and the hit song’s co-writers Bruce Sussman and Jack Feldman to make a musical film. They got James Lipton — yes, the same man who hosted Inside the Actor’s Studio — to write this movie, which originally aired on CBS on December 3, 1985. This is one of the most depressing movies a 13-year-old Sam had seen outside of Bud and Lou, so yes, you really did learn who shot who at the Copa, Copacabana, the hottest spot north of Havana.

Does the artist appear? He sure does. Don’t fall in love (at the Copa…Copacabaaaaana).

Yellow Submarine (George Dunning, Robert Balser, Jack Stokes, Dennis Abey, Al Brodax, 1968): One of the fondest memories of my childhood was getting to stay up past the end of Chiller Theater — which was showing King Kong Escapes — research points this date to be Saturday, September 2, 1978 — and until the sun rose to watch this as my father and grandfather valiantly battled to fix the furnace. This animated version of the Beatles was everything to me as a kid and it took more than 200 artists 11 months of hard work to craft it.

Does the artist appear? While the real Beatles — minus Paul, who of course is dead — show up at the end, their voices were actually John Clive as John, Geoffrey Hughes as Paul, Peter Batten as George and Paul Angelis as Ringo and George.

Across the Universe (Julie Taymor, 2007): This jukebox musical features 33 Beatles songs to tell the story of two lovers, Jude and Lucy. It had a rough editing process, as Taymor wanted a much longer cut than the studio. She won out and the film won over Paul McCartney, Yoko Ono and George Harrison’s widow Olivia. No word on what Ringo thinks.

Does the artist appear? No.

Coward of the County (Dick Lowry, 1981): Kenny Rogers was a massive crossover success in the late 70’s and early 80’s, which led him to turn his song all about the fact that “sometimes you gotta fight when you’re a man” into an actual film.

Does the artist appear? Not only does he sing the song in the movie, but Kenny plays a fighting holy man who helps the titular character beat the unholy heck out of the Gatlin boys.

The Gambler (Dick Lowry, 1980): The Lowry/Rogers team started adapting his songs a year before Coward of the County with this made-for-TV movie, which told the story of Brady Hawkes, the gambler from the song. While the song has the gambler dying — or at least I always felt that way — the character lived through four sequels, all directed by Lowry except for the last entry, Gambler V: Playing for Keeps, which was directed by Jack Bender (The Midnight HourChild’s Play 3) and written by Frank Q. Dobbs (Enter the Devil).

Does the artist appear? Kenny is in every single one of these films, which you could have enjoyed along with a bucket of his Kenny Rogers Roasters chicken, which is still available in Malaysia. Strangely, while everyone associates Rogers with this song, he wasn’t the first to release it. There were versions by songwriter Don Schlitz, Bobby Bare and Johnny Cash released before Rogers recorded the song. Also — there was one more Rogers song turned into a movie, 1990’s Christmas In America.

Speaking of Christmas, the following songs all inspired movies:

The Christmas Shoes (Andy Wolk, 2002): If you ever wonder what song I hate the most, this movie will give you the answer. Based on both the song by NewSong and the book by Donna VanLiere, this movie gets played in my house every holiday season, making me into the worst Grinch you’ve ever met. This film is pure pain.

Does the artist appear? No.

Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer (Phil Roman, 2000): You know, it seems like there are no new Christmas songs, but if you go by this film and the one before it, perhaps that’s a good thing. This Elmo and Patsy Trigg Shropshire song played incessantly in 1979 and every year thereafter, it comes back kind of like herpes. After Elmo and Patsy divorced — they originally handmade their own cassettes of the song — Dr. Elmo re-recorded it.

Does the artist appear? Yes, Elmo is grandpa and the narrator in the animated version of this story.

Frosty the Snowman (Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass, 1969): Based on the Walter “Jack” Rollins and Steve Nelson song — first recorded by Gene Autry and the Cass County Boys and re-recorded for this movie by Jimmy Durante — this was the second of Autry’s seasonal songs to be turned into a film. The first one? It’s coming up next).

Does the artist appear? Yes, Durante — who recorded the song for the first time in 1950 — also plays the narrator. Who plays Frosty? Comedian Jackie Vernon, who is also in Microwave Massacre.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (Larry Roemer and Kizo Nagashima1964): The longest continuously running Christmas special, Rudolph is based on the Johnny Marks song. Marks also wrote “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” “A Holly Jolly Christmas,” “Silver and Gold,” “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” and “Run Rudolph Run.” He wrote most of the music in this special, as well. What’s interesting to me are all the changes this has undergone over the years, from the Peppermint Mine being deleted (rendering the reason why Yukon Cornelius really tastes his axe throughout meaningless), number shortened for length to allow for more commercials and a new sequence being added to show Santa fulfilling his promise to the misfit toys. Even crazier, the original puppets used to make this were given away after it was filmed, with most of them being destroyed.

Does the artist appear? While Gene Autry, who is most associated with this song, does not appear, Burl Ives — who plays Sam the Snowman — did sing the theme and “A Holly Jolly Christmas,” which became seasonal favorites.

Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town (Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass, 1970): Rankin and Bass further dominated the holidays with yet another addition in 1970, this time based on a song that Eddie Cantor first sang in 1939. Featuring Fred Astaire as a mailman, Mickey Rooney as Santa, Keenan Wynn as the Winter Warlock, Robie Lester (who was the voice of the Disneyland Story Reader albums), voiceover actress Joan Gardner (who wrote The Beach Girls and the Monster) and Paul Frees are all in this.

Does the artist appear? No.

The Little Drummer Boy (Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass, 1968): First recorded by the Trapp Family Singers in 1951, this song ended uo inspiring another Rankin-Bass special. Man, these guys had enough to run one every day for the entire month of December. 23 of them were written by Romeo Miller, who also wrote the Tolkein animated movies, Strawberry Shortcake and  the Puff the Magic Dragon cartoons, which, you guessed it, were also based on the song by Peter, Paul and Mary.

Does the artist appear? No.

I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus (John Shepphird, 2001): If you have the Freeform channel, this is one of the many holiday specials that you can watch over and over all December long. It’s based on the song that was originally recorded by Jimmy Boyd in 1952, which was condemned by the Roman Catholic Church in Boston because it mixed kissing with the religious holiday.

Does the artist appear? No.

Last Christmas (Paul Feig, 2019): The latest film from Feig, whose Ghostbusters angered male-centric film lovers and was a bad movie that people felt somehow compelled to defend in the face of chauvinism, this movie combines The Sixth Sense with schmaltz, all set to the Wham! song that becomes inescapable by November. In fact, I play a game with several of my friends to see who survives the longest not hearing this song.

Does the artist appear? While George Michael has sadly left us, Andrew Ridgely shows up.

The Happy Elf (John Rice, 2005): Based on the Harry Connick Jr. song, this animated story is all about Eubie the Elf bringing joy to Bluesville.

Does the artist appear? Yes, he provides the voice of Lil’ Farley.

Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors (Stephen Herek, 2015): The Dolly Parton song about how her childhood jacket — made from the baby quilt of a brother who died prematurely — is an inspiring tale. Interestingly enough, director Stephen Herek also was behind CrittersBill and Ted’s Excellent AdventureThe Mighty Ducks, Mr. Holland’s Opus and more.

Does the artist appear?  Nearly everyone from this project would return for 2016’s Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love, including Parton herself, who plays the Painted Lady, a prostitute who befriends the young movie version of herself.

Jolene (Dan Ireland, 2008): Based on the short story “Jolene: A Life” by E. L. Doctorow and inspired by Dolly Parton’s song, this movie was the debut of Jessica Chastain.

Does the artist appear? No.

Purple People Eater (Linda Shayne, 1988): Linda Shayne was in Out of BoundsNo Man’s LandGraduation Day and Humanoids from the Deep before writing ScrewballsCrystal Heart and this film. Oh this film. Neil Patrick Harris plays a young lad able to manifest the Purple People Eater whenever he plays that song, which he does quite often, mostly to save the home of Ned Beatty and Shelley Winters from an evil landlord. This is a movie that has those on the way up and those on the way down and no one in-between, such as a young Dustin Diamond, Thora Birch, Ned Beatty, Shelley Winters, Peggy Lipton, Little Richard and Chubby Checker. I’ll leave it up to you to determine the career trajectory of each. Perhaps most astounding is that the titular creature was made by the Chiodo Brothers, who made Killer Klowns from Outer Space.

Does the artist appear? Yes, he’s the aforementioned evil landlord.

Mamma Mia (Phyllida Lloyd, 2008): Yeah, I’ll admit it. I love ABBA. Even as such, I’ve successfully avoided this jukebox musical that uses 21 of their songs, as well as the 2018’s Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, which has 18 more songs and 7 instrumental versions of ABBA songs.

Does the artist appear? Yes. Benny Andersson shows up as a piano player on “Dancing Queen” and Björn Ulvaeus plays a Greek god. The premiere of the film in Sweden was the first time that all four members of ABBA had been photographed together since 1986.

Beer for my Horses

Beer for My Horses (Michael Salomon, 2008): Starring and co-produced by country music singer Toby Keith, this movie is based on his duet with Willie Nelson. Rodney Carrington (who also stars in the film) co-wrote this comedy, this movie posits a world where Claire Forlani and Gina Gershon can both fall for Toby, as well as a place where Ted Nugent is a police officer. In short, it is Hell.

Does the artist appear? Yes, along with Keith appearing, Nelson shows up as Charlie, a circus employee.

Pretty In Pink (Howard Deutch, 1986): “Pretty in Pink” was first released on the Psychedelic Furs second album “Talk Talk Talk.” Molly Ringwald told movie-maker John Hughes about the song, which inspired the story and title of this film. The Furs re-recorded the song for this soundtrack, making it their second-biggest U.S. hit after “Heartbreak Beat.” This year, frontman Richard Butler — as reported by NME — said that Hughes got the song wrong. “God rest his soul, he kind of got the wrong end of the stick with that song. He made it to be literally about a girl that was wearing a pink dress and it wasn’t about that at all. It was about a rather unfortunate girl. Me saying “pretty in pink” meant somebody who is naked. It was a metaphor…given that, the movie did us a lot of good.

Does the artist appear? No, but the soundtrack to this film is a true time capsule of the nascent alternative scene of 1986, with Echo & the Bunnymen, The Smiths, OMD, New Order, Suzanna Vega and others showing up.

Saturday Night Fever (John Badham, 1977): Based on a 1976 New York magazine article (“Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night”) by British writer Nik Cohn*, this was group to write a song with the title Saturday Night, but as the band had already written a song called “Night Fever,” they told him to change the title. The rest is a cultural juggernaut. According to keyboard player Blue Weaver, the song itself is a sped-up disco version of the theme from 1959’s A Summer Place. The brothers Gibb would rule the charts when this was released, becoming the first band since The Beatles to have six #1 singles in a row. Here’s how much they dominated: “Night Fever” replaced Andy Gibb’s “Love Is Thicker Than Water” at number one and would be replaced by Yvonne Elliman’s “If I Can’t Have You,” which was also written and produced by the Gibbs. The song would be the #2 song of 1978, behind Andy’s “Shadow Dancing.”

The album from this movie was on the charts for 120 weeks, an amazing record, and generated six singles.

Pretty amazing for a movie that didn’t even have the Bee Gees used for the filming. Instead Stevie Wonder and Boz Scaggs songs were used until Columbia Records refused to allow Scaggs’ music to be used.

*At some point in the mid-1990s, Cohn acknowledged that he made the entire story up. He couldn’t get a handle on disco, so he based Tony on an English mod he grew up with.

Does the artist appear? No.

The Hitcher (Robert Harmon, 1986): Writer Eric Red had made a cross-country drive from New York City to Austin, Texas, during which he listened to The Doors song “Riders on the Storm”. He said that the “elements of the song — a killer on the road in a storm plus the cinematic feel of the music — would make a terrific opening for a film.” He would develop the script while in Austin for seven months, working as a cab driver. He also based the role of the Hitcher — Rutger Hauer is absolutely perfect — as Keith Richards.

Does the artist appear? No.

Peggy Sue Got Married (Francis Ford Coppola, 1986): The song “Peggy Sue Got Married” is one of the first sequels in music, as Buddy Holly explores what happened to a past lover and the subject of his big hit “Peggy Sue.” This film, inspired somewhat by the song, allows Peggy Sue to go back in time and relive what led her life down the path it has, 25 years after high school. It’s worth noting that Kathleen Turner hated nearly every choice that Nicolas Cage made in this movie, from the nasal voice that he based on Gumby’s horse Pokey to the false teeth he wore. She would even claim that he was arrested for drunk driving and stealing a chihuahua during filming, facts that he successfully sued to prove were not facts at all.

Does the artist appear? No.

Road Less Traveled (Blair Hayes, 2017): Based on the Lauren Alaina — and starring the singer — the story of the actual song (Alaina was dealing with the divorce of her parents and wanted to record a tune to help others going through painful life-changing moments) seems more interesting than this movie.

Does the artist appear? Yes, she plays the lead.

All I Want for Christmas Is You (Guy Vasilovich, 2016): There’s a B in the B&S About Movies and that would be Becca, who loves Mariah Carey with the same devotion that I love Lucio Fulci. Therefore, this movie — based on a Mariah song — plays quite often over the holidays. Glitter, sadly, plays all year long.

Does the artist appear? Yes. We also have the book.

St. Louis Blues (Allen Reisner, 1958): Based on the life of W.C. Handy — the “Father of the Blues” — this movie is positively packed with talent, including Nat “King” Cole, Pearl Bailey, Cab Calloway, Ella Fitzgerald (who would adopt the titular song almost as her own), Eartha Kitt, and Barney Bigard, Mahalia Jackson and Ruby Dee. It also features ten of Handy’s songs.

Does the artist appear? No. He sadly died the year it was made.

I Can Only Imagine (Erwin Brothers, 2018): Man, there must be a cottage industry translating Christian and Country music artists’ songs for the screen. Here’s another, based on the Mercy Me song. Well this one made back 12 times its budget, but it is based on the highest selling faith song of all time.

Does the artist appear? No.

Detroit Rock City (Adam Rifkin, 1999): A KISS cover band tries to meet their idol in the movie that uses the title of one of the band’s songs. The craziest thing of this whole movie is that all of the original members of KISS show up, as this was one of those times that the stars aligned and Peter, Paul, Gene and Ace were all getting along.

Does the artist appear? Yes. After all, this is all about the city that Paul said of, “”There is one city in America that opened up your arms and opened up your legs to us.”

The Elder (Seb Hunter, unknown): The first album with drummer Eric Carr and the last to feature Ace Frehley, Music from The Elder was the ninth KISS album and their first concept record. It was a return to rock for the band and also a chance to work with The Wall (and Destroyer) producer Bob Ezrin. The band was embarrassed by the results, never touring and only playing the songs — at the time — live on Fridays (“A World Without Heroes”, “I,” and “The Oath”), Solid Gold (“A World Without Heroes” and “I”), and a strange trio performance of “I” without Ace — who’d left, frustrated that the album was not straight-ahead rock as promised — lip-synced live from Studio 54. Ezrin would blame cocaine. Stanley and Simmons say they were delusional. Ace would say the whole thing wasn’t a good idea. PS: Lou Reed wrote one of the lyrics on the album: “a world without heroes is like a world without sun,” which sounds weird being covered by Cher.

Oh yeah — the movie! It’s been in production since 2011 without the assistance of KISS, so who knows what’s happening with it!

Does the artist appear? No way in hot, hot, hotter than hell.

The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo (Stephen Roberts, 1935): This British music hall song was popularized by singer and comedian Charles Coborn. This film also led to Francis, Day and Hunter Ltd. vs. Twentieth Century Fox Corp., a landmark copyright case that fought to prove that even though Fred Gilbert’s song had been copywritten under the Copyright Act of 1842, they had failed to acquire the parallel performing right under the Copyright (Musical Compositions) Act of 1882, which allowed 20th Century Fox to make this movie with the name of his song for free. PS: The studio won, but it took years. The song also appears in Orson Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons.

Does the artist appear? No.

A Piece of My Heart (Edward af Sillén, 2019): This Swedish jukebox musical — there’s that term again, which refers to a musical film where the majority of the numbers are well-known pop songs — based on Tomas Ledin’s song “En Del av Mitt Hjärta.” It also features Malin Åkerman in her first Swedish-language film.

Does the artist appear? No, but he wrote several new songs for the movie.

Ten Cents a Dance (Lionel Barrymore, 1931): Inspired by the song of the same name, this movie features Barbara Stanwyck as a married taxi dancer — yes, like the private dancer of a Tina Turner song — who falls for one of her customers.

Does the artist appear? No. However, a Spanish version was shot at the same time and René Cardona — yes, the director of Santa ClausNight of the Bloody Apes and Wrestling Women vs. the Aztec Mummy — is in it.

Monster Mash (Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolow, 1995): Before Cohen and Sokolow wrote Toy Story, they directed this adaption of Bobby Pickett and Sheldon Allman’s musical I’m Sorry the Bridge Is Out, You’ll Have to Spend the Night. Pickett is probably best known for the song “Monster Mash,” so that was added to this film, which features Full House star Candace Cameron, Jimmi “Dynomite” Walker, Sarah “Ursa” Douglas, John “Crypt Keeper” Kassir, Deron McBee (who was Malibu on American Gladiators and played Montaro in Mortal Kombat Annihilation), Dancing with the Stars judge Carrie Ann Inaba and, of all people, Mink Stole as the wolfman’s mother.

Does the artist appear? Yes, “Boris” Pickett plays Dr. Frankenstein.

Love Me Tender (Robert D. Webb and Stanley Hough, 1956): Originally titled The Reno Brothers, advanced sales of Presley’s “Love Me Tender” single — the first song to sell more than a million albums — changed the title. This is Elvis’ first of 33 films (31 narrative movies and 2 concert films), which usually had a song featured within the film that gives the movie its name. This is the exception to the rule, which is why it is featured on this list.

Does the artist appear? Elvis wanted to be a serious actor that didn’t sing in his films. He even wanted to attend The Actor’s Studio. While he would tell interviewers that The Rainmaker would be his debut, but this was his first film and yes, he does sing.

Bad Romance (François Chang, 2011): Based on the Lady Gaga song, this movie has a major French influence and is titled Les Mauvais Romans, while the English title refers to the song that inspired its story.

Does the artist appear? No.

Ricochet Romance (Charles Lamont, 1954): With the tagline “That Ma Kettle girl’s got a brand new fella,” this didn’t even come at the end of the ten film Kettles series, as Ma and Pa Kettle at Waikiki, The Kettles in the Ozarks and The Kettles on Old MacDonald’s Farm would all come after this movie. Director Charles Lamont made five of those movies with the star of this movie, Marjorie Main.

Does the artist appear? Teressa Brewer sang the version that came out a year before this and she does not appear, although the song does.

Riders In the Sky (John English, 1949): Selected as the greatest Western song of all time by the Western Writers of America, this was originally a hit song for Vaughn Monroe. The songwriter, Stan Jones, also recorded a version, as did Burl Ives, Bing Crosby, The Sons of the Pioneers, Spike Jones, Scatman Crothers, The Ventures, Dick Dale, Tom Jones, Takeshi “Terry” Terauchi and Bunnys, Elvis Presley, Roy Clark, Johnny Cash, The Shadows, Outlaws, Disneyland After Dark, The Blues Brothers, Christopher Lee and so many more. This is the movie of the song, of course.

Does the artist appear? Gene Autry does, so I guess that qualifies.

Love Potion No. 9 (Dale Launer, 1992): Based on The Searcher’s 1959 hit, this romantic comedy has Tate Donovan and Sandra Bullock as co-workers who magically fall in love.

Does the artist appear? No.

Piange… il telefono (Lucio De Caro, 1975): The Domenico Modungo song that this movie is based on was inspired by based on Claude Francois’s 1974 hit “Le Téléphone Pleure.”

Does the artist appear? Yes, Modungo is the star of the film.

Mr. Unbelievable (Ong Kuo Sin, 2015): Eric Kwek Hock Seng (Chen Tianwen) was originally a character on a TV show called Spouse House whose song “Unbelievable” ended up becoming a viral hit in real life. This is the movie that tells the entire story of how he ended up adding English words to traditional Chinese songs with comedic effect.

Does the artist appear? Yes, Chen is the main actor in this.

Earth Girls Are Easy (Julien Temple, 1984): Based on a song on Julie Brown’s 1984 album Goddess in Progress, this musical also features another song from that album, “‘Cause I’m a Blonde.” Another song, “I Like ‘Em Big and Stupid” was cut from the film, which had numerous production issues due to director Temple’s obsession with details. That said, it’s a blast to watch even today.

Does the artist appear? Yes, Brown plays Candy Pink, the hairstylist who gives the aliens a full-body makeover.

God Bless the Broken Road (Harold Cronk, 2018): Loosely based on the song “Bless the Broken Road,” which has been recorded by everyone from the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and songwriter Marcus Hummond to — most famously — Rascal Flatts, this is a tale of a young mother who loses her husband and gains a race car driver while staying true to her faith. In short, exactly the kind of movies we watch on this site.

Does the artist appear? No, but the song is sung in the movie.

Humanap Ka ng Panget (Ben Feleo, 1990): Andrew E.’s debut song led to this film, which tells the story of three junk scrapping brothers who want to be rich.

Does the artist appear? Yes, Andrew E. plays one of the brothers.

Ein Lied von Liebe und Tod (Rolf Schübel, 1999): Taken from the novel of the same name by Nick Barkow, this movie tells the story of “Gloomy Sunday,” also known as the “Hungarian Suicide Song.” Best known in the U.S. thanks to the 1941 Billie Holiday cover, an urban legend claims that more people have killed themselves while listening to this song than any other. And here you thought it was “The Christmas Shoes.”

Does the artist appear? No.

Shuì zài wǒ shàng pù de xiōngdì (Stephen Zhang, 2016): Who Sleeps My Bro? is a Chinese coming of age tale based on a famous song.

Does the artist appear? No.

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Karn Evil 9 (Michael Napoliello and Maria Frisk, producers 202?):  The 30-minute futuristic rock suite featured on British prog-rock legends Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s 1973 album Brain Salad Surgery — about man’s loss of humanity to technology — is in the process of being adapted into a feature film by Daniel H. Wilson of the best seller Robopocalypse.

Does the artist appear? No. Drummer Carl Palmer is the only surviving member.

Whew! Did we miss anything? Let us know!

Exploring : Paul Naschy and El Hombre Lobo

Born during the Spanish Civil War as Jacinto Molina Alvarez, the man who would one day be known as Paul Naschy didn’t write his first werewolf film — much less plan on starring in it — until he was 34 years old. He had plans of being an architect but moved between acting, writing and professional weightlifting.

However, he wrote The Mark of the Wolfman, a script about Polish werewolf Count Waldemar Daninsky and talked Maxper Producciones Cinematograficas into financing the film. Naschy wasn’t going to be in the movie, but when the producers failed to find the right actor for the part — and the 62-years-old Lon Chaney Jr. said he was too ill to travel for the movie — Alvarez became Naschy, named after Pope Paul VI and Imre Nagy, one of his weightlifting heroes.

By 1972, Naschy wrote and starred in seven horror films and was working with the biggest directors in European horror, such as León Klimovsky (his favorite director), Carlos Aured, Javier Aguirre, José Luis Madrid, Juan Piquer Simón, Francisco Lara Polop and José Luis Merino.

Eclipsing even Chaney Sr., Naschy is the only actor to play Dracula, the Mummy, Frankenstein’s monster, Fu Manchu, the Hunchback, Rasputin, a warlock, a zombie, a medieval Inquisitor, a serial killer and — sixteen times — a werewolf, mostly the aforementioned Daninsky.

Counting La Casa del Terror and an appearance on Route 66, Lon Chaney Jr. only played a werewolf seven times. Naschy played El Hombre Lobo twelve times, as well as two unconnected werewolves. Let’s dive in and explore the furry magic, film fans!

Also — if you read through these and wonder why they don’t seem connected at all — you are starting to understand the awesomeness of these films. Even if they had all come out in America, they would have all been released out of order and perhaps been even more confusing.

The Mark of the Wolfman (1968): This is where it all starts. Whether you see it under its original title or as Hell’s Creatures: Dracula and the Werewolf, The Nights of Satan or Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror — the version I saw — this is an astounding 3D blast of weirdness. Count Waldemar Daninsky is attacked by a female werewolf and asks for help from two doctors, who end up being vampires and resurrecting that female werewolf all over again for a final battle. Blame Sam Sherman for this movie’s American title, which was needed to pad a double bill with Al Adamson’s Dracula vs. Frankenstein.

Las Noches del Hombre Lobo (1968):  This lost movie hasn’t even been seen by Naschy, who claimed that he went to Paris for a week to shoot the movie for Rene Govar, who apparently only directed this one film). Govar was said to have died in a car accident in Paris a week after the filming was completed and the film was thrown away from the lab when it was not paid. Some Naschy scholars believe that the movie was actually canceled and the script used to make the fourth Daninsky movie, La Furia del Hombre Lobo.

Assignment Terror (1970): This is another multi-named Naschy effort, boasting titles like The Monsters of Terror, Dracula vs FrankensteinDracula and the Wolf Man vs. Frankenstein, Operation Terror and Reincarnator. An alien scientist — played by The Day The Earth Stood Still star Michael Rennie — is trying to destroy humans so his alien race can move in. How would he do that? By using vampires, werewolves and mummies, that’s how!

The Fury of the Wolfman (1970): After multiple Daninsky movies, now his origin changes. He has now become a werewolf thanks to a yeti bite and dies after killing his cheating wife and the man who cuckolded him. Then, a mad scientist brings him back to kill even more, as well as his now furry ex-wife. There’s also a Swedish movie of this with longer sex scenes called Wolfman Never Sleeps.

Art by Zornow Must Be Destroyed. Check out his site at https://zmbd.storenvy.com/

The Werewolf vs. the Vampire Woman (1971): Naschy’s most successful movie is also known as The Werewolf vs. the Vampire Woman, Shadow of the Werewolf, Night of the VampireNight of the Bloody Witches, The Black Mass of Countess Dracula, Werewolf’s Shadow, Fury of the Vampires and Night of the Werewolves, this one finds El Hombre Lobo revived when doctors remove the silver bullets from his heart. He later bleeds on the corpse of Countess Wandessa de Nadasdy, who ends up becoming his nemesis. Some Naschy fans like to think of this as a direct sequel to The Mark of the Wolfman. This was directed by León Klimovsky.

Dr. Jekyll and the Werewolf (1971): Naschy was inspired by the Universal monsters and the way they would crossover into one another’s films. That’s why in this Klimovsky-directed installment, El Hombre Lobo attempts to be cured by the grandson of Dr. Jekyll, who may have some sinister plans.

The Return of Walpurgis (1973): How many names can one movie have? How about seven? In addition to the Walpurgis title, this is also called Curse of the DevilNight of the Fiendish Orgy, Death Grip of the Cruel Wolves, Night of the Killer, The Mark of Dracula and Return of the Werewolf. This starts off with a Daninsky relative killing a witch and moves forward to the modern day Daninsky being bitten by a wolf skull after being seduced by a gypsy girl!

Curse of the Beast (1975): I saw this under the title The Werewolf and the Yeti, but you may know it as Night of the Howling Beast or Hall of the Mountain King. You’d think that another yeti would transform our hero into El Hombre Lobo, but Naschy is cunning and somehow creates a story not only one, but two vampire women, bite him and turn him into the werewolf. Well done.

Return of the Wolf Man (1980): Basically a remake of Walpurgis Night, this was released in the U.S. as The Craving. Naschy has gone on record saying that this was his favorite Hombre Lobo film and it was also the last one to play the U.S. In this one, he battles Elizabeth Bathory.

The Beast and the Magic Sword (1983): This movie is absolutely, positively, magically insane. Imagine — and then see that it’s true — Naschy making a period Japanese feudal movie mixed with werewolves. Sometimes when I’m sad, I think how lucky I am to live in a world that made this film.

Licantropo: the Full Moon Killer (1996): Yeah, there was no American release. And yeah, the budget sucks. But even a bad Naschy movie is better than 98% of any other werewolf movie you’ve ever seen. Daninsky versus a serial killer? Sure, I’ll watch that.

Tomb of the Werewolf (2004): A relative of Daninsky inherits his castle and as soon as he gets there, Elizabeth Bathory (Michelle Bauer!) gets him to pull the silver dagger from El Hombre Lobo’s corpse! Oh man — directed by Fred Olen Ray and shot by Gary Graver, it would be the last Daninsky movie made.

There are also some other films where Naschy played a werewolf, including the child film Good Night, Mr. Monster; the monster-filled comedy It Smells Like Death Here (Well, It Wasn’t Me) and A Werewolf in The Amazon.

Howl of the Devil (1987): A movie where Naschy plays just about every monster ever wouldn’t be complete without a brief cameo by our friend Waldemar. Also, Caroline Munro is in this, which should be enough to get you tracking it down.

As you may already have realized, we love Paul Naschy. We’ve also watched him in Horror Rises from the Tomb, Panic Beats, and The People Who Own the DarkThe Killer Is One of 13Blue Eyes of the Broken DollSeven Murders for Scotland Yard, The Devil’s Possessed and Count Dracula’s Great Love.

They’re all awesome. But not as awesome as werewolves fighting yetis.

Looking to own these films? We can help. Click the links and get something awesome for yourself.

Night of the Werewolf (the 1980 Return of the Wolfman) is on Shout! Factory’s The Paul Naschy Collection and The Werewolf and the Yeti is on their second volume.

Ronin Flix has Assignment Terror and Fury of the Wolfman.

Mondo Macabro has The Beast and the Magic Sword.

For even more Naschy — and everything else awesome in strange films — turn to Diabolik DVD.

If you want to see every werewolf movie we’re watched so far, check out this Letterboxd list!

Exploring: The Howling

Much like Demons, Prom NightAmityvilleChildren of the Corn and the House series of films, none of The Howling movies really seem to add up. No worries! That’s why we’re here, to be your guide through a series of movies that goes from the highest of highs to the absolutely lowest levels of cinema.

So how did it all get started?

Gary Phil Brandner wrote the book that the original version of The Howling was based on. While he would write two sequels and help write the screenplay to the second film, he had nothing to do with the other films in the series.

This would lead to The Howling, the 1981 Joe Dante film that pretty much sets the standard for all werewolf films to come, even in a year that also featured Full Moon HighWolfen and An American Werewolf In London.

By the way — if you click any of the titles of the films, you can visit our complete review.

The Howling (1981): Other than the work of Paul Naschy as El Hombre Lobo, this is my favorite werewolf movie of all time. Speaking of Naschy, one of its werewolves is named after the director’s legal name (Jacinto Molino), as well as mnaming characters after famous werewolf directors like George Waggner, Roy William Neill Terence Fisher, Freddie Francis, Erle C. Kenton, Sam Newfield, Charles Barton, Jerry Warren, Lew Landers and Stuart Walker.

This is a movie that makes the journey frm grimy police procedural to pure horror in no time flat. I make a special point to watch it at least once a year to appreciate just how great it is. You can get this movie from Shout! Factory.

At this point, I will not be saying anything that nice about any of these films.

Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf (1985): I hated this movie the first time I saw it, but after revisiting it after watching the rest of this series, I found that it’s actually pretty solid by comparison. I think that’s more due to the lackluster films and sheer rock bottom that this series reaches.

It’s also the only sequel in the series that features a plot that directly follows the original film and also the only one that has direct input from the aforementioned Gary Brandner, who hated how the 1981 film diverged from his novel.

Obviously, Christopher Lee (who apologized to Dante for being in this movie) and Sybil Danning (I can also make a case for Reb Brown, Marsha Hunt and the scene where Babel plays in the punk disco) are the main reasons to see this. It has grown on me, but a movie that shows Danning’s bare breasts seventeen times in a row and had the tagline “The rocking, shocking new wave of horror!” can’t be all horrible.

The Howling III: The Marsupials (1987): Much like the Howling II, this was directed by Philippe Mora (who also made the were-ciccada movie The Beast Within). If the two films before it didn’t exist, it wouldn’t be horrible. And yet because the other films in this series do, it somehow becomes better by comparison. It also features the cheapest Oscars you’ve ever seen. You can watch this on Amazon Prime and Tubi. Shout! Factory has also released this on blu ray.

Howling IV: The Original Nightmare (1988): While this film does boast direction by John Hough, this had the noble goal of being the only movie in this series to faithfully adapt Brandner’s original novel. Clive Turner, who produced this and would become involved in the later films in the series, re-cut and re-voiced the whole film afterward. Actually, the dubbing wasn’t hard. as the budget was so small that it was shot without sound. You can watch this on Tubi.

Howling V: Rebirth (1989): This one is more Agatha Christie than Lon Chaney Jr., this movie starts with the silly scene of everyone but a baby being killed in a castle — who saved the baby? The cameraman? — and then gets even goofier. You can watch it for yourself on Tubi.

Howling VI: The Freaks (1991): Another movie based on the novels, this would be the last decently budgeted film in this onslaught of furry films, even if it went direct to video. It’s not horrible, actually, but not really what you want out of a werewolf film, instead concentrating more on the freakshow aspects — as per its title, that kind of makes sense. It’s also on Tubi.

The Howling: New Moon Rising (1995): Directed, written and starring Clive Turner, this film uses footage from four through six — as well as characters from those movies — to attempt to tie together some form of continuity. It’s also a movie where Turner decided he’d rather tell the story of drunken barflies than werewolves. I’d love to chat with him about this movie because I find it fascinating. I can’t hate it — oh, it’s beyond a bad movie — but the about face that it makes in featuring long sequences of the drunks of Pioneer Town singing obsesses me.

The Howling: Reborn (2011): With a poster like that, you may think that you’re about to watch a rip-off of Twilight. No, instead, you’re just watching a reboot of the series that claims to be based on the second book. As of now, this is the last* of these movies.

The Howling: Revenge of the Werewolf Queen (2017): Space Goat Productions released four issues of this comic book (along with Evil Dead II and Terminator comics) in 2017, but a failed Kickstarter for an Evil Dead II board game has seemed to put the future of this company into question.

So what’s next?

Andy Muschietti, who directed the two It movies, is making a new version of the series for Netflix. Of course, with most of the world on hold thanks to COVID-19, it may be a long time until we see his vision.

Have you seen all of the films? Do you disagree with our assessment? What film series would you like to see us tackle next? Let us know!

If you want to see every werewolf movie we’re watched so far, check out this Letterboxd list!

*For those wondering, The 2017 movie The Howling has nothing at all to do with any of these movies.

Exploring: The Clones of the Fast & Furious

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

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

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

Hot Wheels image courtesy of Mattel/type by PicFont


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Nah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So wraps our “Fast and Furious” tribute week. Save us the aisle seat on April 2, 2021 . . . provided we’re not fighting off apoc-punk warloads with spiked baseball bats, hopin’ for Mark Gregory and Michael Sopkiw to show up and save us from the Euracs, by then. And be sure to check out our “Savage Cinema (and “Fast and Furious Week”) Recap!” that features links to all of the films we reviewed during our “Fast and Furious” tribute week.

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

Exploring: John Saxon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exploring: Giallo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Courtesy of GaiusMarius157BC/Reddit

Giallos offered European readers sexually-inspired gore stories that caused the fans of the suggestive, atmospheric horror films produced by Britain’s Amicus and Hammer Studios to flinch—and Stevenson, along with noted Gothic horror authors Sheridan Le Fanu, Gaston LeRoux, and Guy de Mausspaunt to roll over in their graves. (And don’t forget the inspirations of Thomas De Quincey to Italian filmmaker Dario Argento.) Giallos—filled with quaint, occasional reader-acceptable typos by way of underpaid and overworked editors and proof readers—were well-written, suspenseful and engaging tales (the “content” is the key) that Sheridan Le Fanu probably wanted to include in his influential, short-story collection In a Glass, Darkly (featuring the vampire classic “Carmella”) and realized he had to rein his imagination or be judged by a puritanical, elitist lynch mob for writing “filth.”

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

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

As fate would have it, the John Carpenter-inspired slasher film cycle coincided with the introduction of a contraption known as a VCR that played something called a VHS tape—and that hunk of analog electronics transitioned the slasher film genre from America’s outdoor drive-ins and onto the shelves of the burgeoning U.S home video market. (Don’t forget: Christopher Lewis’s groundbreak Blood Cult was the first “Big Box” SOV produced exclusively for the home video market.) Slasher films—affectionately referred to as “boobs and blades” for their concentrations on well-endowed, giggly women and the shiny, sharp objects that stabbed them—were cheap and easy to produce and the worldwide film markets were hot for product. Returns on a film’s investment produced under the “boobs and blades” banner were guaranteed. The films became the number one way for a newbie actor or writer, budding director or producer to get into the film business.

Courtesy of heliosphan/Picclick.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Noir/detective paperbacks image courtesy of rubysresaleofrhodeisland/eBay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Perversion Story
Pensione Paura

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exploring: Andy Sidaris

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EXPLORING: Bond girls in giallo films

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BONUS ROUND…

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