NEW WORLD PICTURES MONTH: A Little Night Music (1977)

An adaptation of the 1973 musical A Little Night Music, which was based on Ingmar Bergman’s Smiles of a Summer Night, this seems like an odd film for New World to release. It was directed by Harold Prince, who spent most of his career directing for the stage.

Despite negative reviews, Stephen Sondheim’s music and lyrics for the film — the “Night Waltz” theme and a new version of “The Glamorous Life” — have been added to many of the later productions of this musical when it’s performed on stage.

Widower Frederich Egerman (Len Cariou) is married to a much younger second wife Anne (Lesley-Anne Down) who has kept her virginity for the first year of their time living under one roof. His son Erich (Christopher Guard) may be studying to be a priest, but he lusts after his stepmother while Frederich falls again for an old lover, actress Desiree Armfeldt (Elizabeth taylor), which upsets his young bride.

As for Desiree, her mother Madame Armfeldt (Hermione Gingold) is raising her daughter’s teenager Fredericka (Chloe Franks) and as you can guess, she just may be the daughter of Frederich. All manner of hijinks occur — as much as attempted suicide and Russian roulette can be hijinks — and all ends happily. And hey — Diana Rigg is in it!

That’s really Liz singing in this. I didn’t think so, but then I found out that yes, she’s really singing.

Man, only Roger Corman could get an Elizabeth Taylor musical on this site.

NEW WORLD PICTURES MONTH: Ilsa, the Tigress of Siberia (1977)

The third sequel to Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS, this film finds Ilsa — didn’t she die a few times along the way? — changing sides from the Third Reich to the USSR as she runs Siberian Gulag 14, where she mentally and physically decimates men.

When Stalin dies, Ilsa burns the camp to the ground leaving no one alive except for Andrei Chikurin, who escapes and vows to get revenge. Twenty years later, he learns that Isla now runs a brothel in Canada when the Russian hockey team plays several games there.

According to the amazing Canuxploitation, Ilsa is actually a Canadian creation. When Lee Frost and David F. Friedman made big money with Love Camp 7 in Canada, Cinepix’s Andr Link and John Dunning wrote the script for Ilsa and got Friedman on board as a producer. Despite being the man who hired Dyanne Thorne for the role, issues with Cinepix and producer Don Carmody would have Friedman disown the movie.

Amazingly, this was produced by Ivan Reitman (using the name Julian Parnell).

This movie has a Siberian tiger named Sasha that Ilsa feeds men to, as well as many icy and watery graves and a scene where men arm wrestle over a running chainsaw. And each night, the men wrestle one another while a nude Ilsa challenges them to be the only two to come to her room where she’s definitely ahead of the adult film curve and very into DP (and I thought that was popularized by Ginger Lynn). She also has a mad scientist named Leve who has figured out ways to use photos and music to get into people’s brains.

Andrei Chikurin (Michel Morin) is the one man that she can’t break. He’s the one who killed her tiger and escaped the gulag and now, as the manager of the Russian hockey team, he somehow finds the one Montreal bordello called Aphrodite that Ilsa is the boss of. As he sits in the waiting room, her men take him and she tries to break him again — and make love to him, of course — before he’s freed by the Russian mafia and all manner of near Eurospy wildness goes down.

Director Jean LaFleur also made The Mystery of the Million Dollar Hockey Puck which has a lot of footage that was taken for this movie. It’s in no way as insane as the other Ilsa films — I mean, they have to contend with Jess Franco’s insane Ilsa, The Wicked Warden — but there’s lots of silly fun to be had. There’s also the ending, where Ilsa is left in the midst of nowhere, left with just her money to burn to stay alive.

NEW WORLD PICTURES MONTH: Double Nickels (1977)

EDITOR’S NOTE: You can read another take on this movie here.

Also released as Split-Second Smokey, this movie is about two cops — Ed (Edward Abrahms, the art director of the movie) and Smokey (Jack Vacek, who directed and wrote this; he also did the same for Deadly Addiction) — making extra money repossessing cars for George Daniels (George Cole) and Mick (Mick Brennan) before they learn that they are actually involved in a car theft ring.

Smokey’s girl Heidi (Heidi Schubert) just wants him to start being a normal person not obsessed with cars and racing. She ends up dumping him and he finds a new girl, Jordan (Patrice Schubert, is Heidi’s sister and yeah, that’s kind of weird, right? She’s also Vacek’s wife).

There’s a big crossover with H.B. Halicki’s car movies, as Vacek and cinematographer Tony Syslo worked for him, as well as Cole and Abrahms appearing in several Halicki movies. This has the same ramshackle feel — and I mean that in the best way, read that as “it has heart” — as those movies, with the L.A. River concrete structures that you’ll know from Terminator being used as scenery for chase after chase.

How close is this to Gone In Sixty Seconds? The black 1977 Cadillac Coupe DeVille in this movie has a Ronald Moran Cadillac license plate. That’s the same car dealer shown from Halicki’s movie.

You can watch this on Tubi.

NEW WORLD PICTURES MONTH: Deadly Harvest (1977)

In the midst of a worldwide famine — brought on by global cooling, not warming — farmer Grant Franklin (Clint Walker) and his family are some of the few to have food, thanks to hydroponics. Yeah, it was 1977.

The drama starts when cattle thief Mort Logan (Nehemiah Persoff) steals the family’s last cow from daughter Susan (Kim Cattrall), which causes Grant’s son Michael (Geraint Wyn Davies) to join the militia that’s been fighting back. Then, Charles Ennis (David Brown) and his father (Tim Whelan) come from Toronto to the country, begging the Franklin family for produce for his sick sister (Nuala Fitzgerald). When the militia finds the food, they think he stole it and Ennis’ father dies of a heart attack. This all ends up with a battle at Susan’s wedding, where Grant’s wife (Dawn Greenhalgh) and Susan’s groom are both murdered. But hey — there are only 27 days of food left for the whole world.

Deadly Harvest is a downer, as you can tell, but it’s a different end of the world film. The combat is all from frustration and pain; this is no fun Mad Max world. It’s the type of movie that has a credit for scientific consultation by City Green Hydroponics.

Director Timothy Bond also made the My Pet Monster movie, along with episodes of Friday the 13th: The SeriesThe HitchhikerGoosebumps and Animorphs. Writer Martin Lager also wrote The Shape of Things To Come and the TV series The Starlost.

NEW WORLD PICTURES MONTH: The Shadow of Chikara (1978)

Earl A. Smith was the writer of The Legend of Boggy Creek and The Town That Dreaded Sundown, but he only directed this one movie.

It’s a Western horror, which is rare, and one that places Confederate soldier Wishbone Cutter (Joe Don Baker, who yes, was a 70s lead and near sex symbol) into a treasure hunt after he learns of a cave filled with diamonds from dying soldier Virgil Caine (Slim Pickens).

Wishbone assembles a team that includes Amos Richmond geologist (Ted Neeley, once Jesus Christ), Native American Half Moon O’Brian (John N. Houck Jr.) and eventually Drusilla Wilcox (Sondra Locke), a woman they find after a massacre. The Arkansas mountain is guarded by a demon bird, so of course everything gets strange by the time they get there. Wishbone is already haunted as his wife Rosalie (Linda Dano, who was on more than 1,300 episodes of Another World) has left him for a Yankee soldier.

Wilcox claims that the men that killed her people were silver naked beings and O’Brian claims that they’re being attacked by demons. The movie never gives in and reveals to you what it’s really all about and for that, I like it even more. It’s also got the same crew that Charles B. Pierce used, so it gets the authentic Arkansas rough feel down right. Even the ending makes little to no sense, but hey, I kind of adore that.

The only downer I’ll reveal is that there’s a lot of real animal abuse in this, as several horses plunge off a cliff and I have no idea if any survived. Just know that going in.

On the positive side, somehow, the filmmakers got The Band to let them use “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.”

Also known as The Ballad of Virgil Cane, Thunder MountainWishbone CutterThe Curse of Demon Mountain, Demon Mountain and Shadow Mountain, this is a movie that combines the end of the Western 70s darkness with occult themes and a relentless downer edge. I’d never seen it before and it’s definitely a film I plan on exploring again.

You can watch this on Tubi.

NEW WORLD PICTURES MONTH: I Never Promised You a Rose Garden (1977)

Based on the novel I Never Promised You a Rose Garden by Joanne Greenberg, this was directed by Anthony Page (AbsolutionChernobyl: The Final Warning) and written by Gavin Lambert and Lewis John Carlino (Where Have All the People Gone?The Mechanic).

It stars Kathleen Quinlan as Deborah Blake, a borderline schizophrenic who lives in a world of fantasy that is rudely intruded upon when she ends up in a brutal institution. Luckily, she’s saved by Dr. Fried (Bibi Andersson), who helps her learn what’s real and what isn’t.

After One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was a success, Roger Corman was able to get this made. All of the Jewish content was removed, including the anti-Semetic abuse that the protagonist endures. How did Greenberg feel about that? She said that the Jewish moments left the producers “terrified” and the way that mental illness was treated “stank on ice.” Of the actors, only Andersson contacted her to learn the character and she claimed that the producers had told her that the author was “hopelessly insane.” She’d know, as the novel was based on her life.

One of the most expensive New World Pictures, this was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay and won two Golden Globe nominations for Best Actress for Quinlan and Best Picture.

This movie also has Dennis Quaid, Susan Tyrell, Lorraine Gary (Ellen Brodie!), Martin Bartlett, Ben Piazza and Sylvia Sidney in the cast. I want to know more about the deleted scenes, as Barbara Steele was in those. And when the movie shows scenes in Blake’s imagination — The Kingdom of Yr — the warriors ‘Anterrabae’ and ‘Lactameaon are Robert Viharo and Jeff Conaway.

Children of the Corn (2020)

I’ve been waiting for this movie for three years. Principal photography began in New South Wales in early March 2020 — just when COVID-19 started — and wrapped that June. While it had a premiere in Sarasota, Florida on October 23, 2020, it was as if this movie were never made. That is, until RJLE bought the rights and released it in theaters this March, with plans for a blu ray in May and an eventual run on Shudder.

The first movie in this series to play theaters since 1993’s Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice — there are ten other movies in this series as well as the short film that predates them, Disciples of the Crow — none of the movies have ever lived up to the original Children of the Corn.

Does this?

The town of Rylstone, Nebraska — well, Rylstone, Australia, but let’s go with what the movie tells us — is considered a government buyout for their failed corn. Robert (Callan Mulvey) plans on selling, but his daughter Boleyn (Elena Kampouris) argues it. Then there are the town’s children, led by Rylstone Children’s Home resident Eden (Kate Moyer), who come to the town meeting to weigh in before being laughed at by the grown-ups.

However, Eden speaks to He Who Walks, the demonic presence within the cornfield and soon the children of the small city have risen up and come at their parents with death in their hearts. Eden learned from an incident in your youth when Boyd (Rory Potter) emerged from the corn and killed every adult in the orphanage and when the cops unleashed halothane gas, all the kids died as well. Now, Bolelyn must figure out a way to stop the carnage when the kids go wild.

I kind of like how this film got in a message about herbicides and GMOs. There’s also a scene where Bolelyn’s beother Cecil (Jayden McGinlay) Cecil walks through town and notices just how much child abuse — not to mention his mother cheating on his dad — there is in this falling to pieces town. He joins Eden, as she claims the entity she serves will help them kill everyone.

While most of the important town leaders are placed in prison, the rest are led to a mass grave, gassed with that same halothane and then buried under dirt. It’s a really well-done and rough scene. Other than the shock ending that sets up — you know it — another sequel, things work pretty well in this, if still in the shadow of what came before.

The main reason I was excited for this was that it was directed and written by Kurt Wimmer, who wrote Sphere and the remake of The Thomas Crowne Affair before directing two wild early 2000s movies that showed off his riff on Hong Kong action called gun fu, Equilibrium and Ultraviolet.

The results? Not the worst film in the series and one that takes its own path away from the cult idea and presents more ecohorror. It’s an interesting idea and just ends up being an okay movie, but when you’re the 12th film in a series, okay sometimes is more than okay.

NEW WORLD PICTURES MONTH: Catastrophe (1977)

Directed, written and produced by Larry Savadove (the executive producer of In Search of Ancient MysteriesThe Outer Space Connection and In Search of Ancient Astronauts and the writer and director of the UFO religion film Contact), Catastrophe is similar to the Sunn Classics films that were a big deal in the 70s. If you wonder what they’re like, just watch any of the UFO, cryptozoological or conspiracy shows that are all over basic cable today as Sunn walked so they could run.

Back. in 1977, you couldn’t pick the show you wanted to watch. So if you wanted a movie filled with disasters, you had to head to the theater. This delivers everything from the Hindenburg and the Xenia, Ohio tornado to Hurricane Camille. the Great Depression Dust Bowl, the Joelma fire in Brazil, Mount Etna erupting, the sinking of the SS Andrea Doria and accidents at the Indianapolis 500 all in one burst of death and horror, narrated by William Conrad.

It’s not perfect — when discussing the Xenia Tornado, Conrad recites the poem “Who Has Seen the Wind?” and claims that it’s by Robert Louis Stevenson. It’s not. It was written by Christina Rossetti. That said, today you’d just watch whole series about these things. But in 1977, we had this. It’s kind of a mondo, except it doesn’t have racist journeys into seeing native tribes or tries to shock you with sex. Mondo kind of makes a move from world travelogue to disasters to outright death by the VHS era, as Faces of Death faked out the world.

Diabolik – Ginko Attacks (2022)

Danger: Diabolik! may be my favorite movie of all time, so I was nervous when Diabolik came out in 2021. It wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t a disappointment. The strange all on a soundstage feel of the movie was quite exciting. Yet I feel that the sequel abandons that to feel more like it fits into our world. Well, it does also have time for Bond-like video segments like the incredible opening number that turns into the credits and the first action scene without ever slowing down.

Directed yet again by Antonio and Marco Manetti, this replaces Luca Marinelli as the antihero Diabolik with Giacomo Gianniotti while smartly keeping Miriam Leone as Diabolik’s lover Eva Kant and Valerio Mastandrea as his nemesis Ginko.

After that aforementioned dance/singing/music video/Bondian intro, Diabolik steals the Crown of Armen and the Armen Jewels in short order. Yet he doesn’t realize that it’s all part of Ginko’s plan, as the jewels have been coated with a radioactive tracking substance that permits Ginko and the police to infiltrate one of Diabolik’s secret bases.

As Diabolik and Eva escape, she hurts her ankle and the master criminal abandons her to sneak away. The police now have all of Diabolik’s wealth, the way that he makes masks and his girl, who Ginko is trying to convert to his side so that he can finally stop Diabolik.

Now, before you come into this cold, you have to realize that Diabolik is kind of a James Bond level character in Italy. Created by sisters Angela and Luciana Giussani, he’s a master thief and cold blooded criminal who often steals either for the thrill or because he wants to outdo another criminal. Just as often, he’s doing something to upset Ginko, who can never seem to hold him for long.

Based on the sixteenth Diabolik story Ginko All’Attacio, this is a strange movie to introduce an audience unfamiliar with the comics to. It’s more about Ginko and his quest than it is Diabolik, who remains in disguise for most of the film. Also, because of how they’re kept apart, this has less of the draw of Diabolik and Eva, which at heart is always the reason why I love the series and characters.

This film also introduces Duchess Altea, Inspector Ginko’s secret companion, who is played by Monica Bellucci. She’s always a welcome sight and having her gives Ginko a near equal partner to Diabolik and Kant.

There’s already a third movie and I’ll definitely watch it, mostly because I want to see if it also makes a shift in look and feel as this one did. This is shot well, has a pretty exciting soundtrack and sure, it may not be as perfect as Mario Bava, but what movie released in this time has his genius? It’s unfair to expect anything to live up to that.

The other thing some may miss is that in the comics, Diabolik went from being a killing machine who didn’t care about human life to one with his own code of honor. This didn’t happen from story one to story two, but over a few years. There is an abrupt change in here where our lead doesn’t kill a police officer that make it feel like he made that leap perhaps too quickly.

Again, maybe I’m still too jazzed over Bava when it comes to this movie or perhaps its that all modern movies seem to be TV movies shot with a little better color balancing and budget, but while this looks like it used its budget, it also struggles to find intriguing camera angles or even attempt to bring a comic to film life. I’m being unfair, but I want a Diabolik movie to knock my eyes out of my head. Not to say this isn’t pretty in parts, but broken record, there’s so much I want for this movie.

That said — if you’re a fan of the whole Diabolik series, it’s nice that the world of superheroes on film is a little less America-centric and that we can get three new movies in as many years.

The end of the story, well, you’ll see coming, but here’s to where this can go next.

NEW WORLD PICTURES MONTH: Grand Theft Auto (1977)

Using the name that came in second for Eat My Dust and working on the script with his father Rance, this was the first movie that Ron Howard directed. It takes what worked in that aforementioned New World Pictures movie and makes it even more charming.

Paula Powers (Nancy Morgan) wants to marry Sam Freeman (Howard) but as far as her parents — Bigby (Barry Cahill) and Priscilla Powers (Elizabeth Rogers, who was the substitute communications officer for Uhara on Star Trek) — are interested, she should be with the wealthy Collins Hedgeworth (Paul Linke, Motel Hell) instead of a poor kid who is studying the environment. She responds by stealing their Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud and racing out to Las Vegas.

Bigby is running for political office, so he sends Ned Slinke (Rance Howard) after the couple to stop this whole foolish enterprise, while Collins heads out after his would-be fiancee, but not before he steals a car, which sends the police — and his mother, played by Howard’s Happy Days castmate Marion Ross — after him.

He also calls KTNQ’s DJ Curly Q, who is the “Real Deal” Don Steele, a fixture in so many Corman movies like The Student TeachersDeath Race 2000 and Rock ‘n’ Roll High School as well as Corman alumni films like Gremlins and Eating Raoul. Speaking of high speed and cars, one of the promotions Steele was involved in ended in tragedy. When he was at KHJ in the summer of 1970, the station had a “Super Summer Spectacular” with Steele driving around Los Angeles in a red sports car. They would broadcast clues about his location and. give $25 to anyone who found him. During this contest, two teenagers attempting to track Steele by car at speeds of roughly 80 miles per hour rammed another car into a highway divider, causing the death of Ronald Weirum. Weirum’s family sued and won, saying that the promotion caused recklessness. Steele would also often yell. “Tina Delgado is alive! Alive!” on the air and would never reveal why. I’ve heard two stories: one that she was a girl whose obituary was incorrectly written and he was always trying to make up for it. Or it was the scary version, where she was a teenager listening to Steele on the air and not paying attention, which led to her walking right into a train. His guilt led to him saying her name on every broadcast to pay tribute. You can also hear him in the Cheap Trick song “On the Radio” (“Heaven Tonight”) and when his career was down in the 80s, Ernie Anderson — the one-time Ghoulardi and the father of Paul Thomas Anderson — got him the agent he needed to return to stardom, to the point that he has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

I digress, but man, whenever Don Steele shows up in a movie, I love it.

By this point, our leads are being chased — for a $25,000 reward given by Collins’ mother for the safe return of her beloved boy — by all manner of weirdos like mechanics Ace (Ron’s brother Clint) and Sparky (Pete Isacksen); a preacher (Hoke Howell, who had been on The Andy Griffith Show with Howard); a demolition derby and even an organized crime family led by Garry Marshall (Howard was calling in all his Happy Days people) that has Leo Rossi — Bud from Halloween 2! — amongst its members.

I love how the radio station takes the couple as bad guys, then good guys, then bad, then by the end Don Steele is chasing them from their wedding on the way to their honeymoon, promising coverage of their lovemaking before crashing into a house. A total New World all-star film, this also has Allan Arkush as a clown and Paul Bartel as a groom.

Shot without permits in 15 days, Howard impressed the crew with how fast he was able to understand directing a movie. Then again, he’d been on films sets for a decade. Corman told him, “Do a really good job on this one, kid, and you’ll never have to work for me again.”