Performance (1970)

Donald Cammell was raised in a home “filled with magicians, metaphysicians, spiritualists and demons” and spent his childhood bouncing on the knee of “the wickedest man in the world” Aleister Crowley. Originally a painter, he became a screenwriter before meeting the Rolling Stones through Anita Pallenberg.

Performance was supposed to be a light-hearted swinging ’60s romp, but it ended up being what John Simon of New York Magazine called “the most vile film ever made.” It’s the story of two men*, Chas (James Fox), a brutal street thug, and Turner (Mick Jagger), a rock star who has gone into hiding.

Chas was a member of an East London gang, a man of violence who is prized for his ability to get money for his employer Harry Flowers. However, his complicated past with another gangster and that man’s murder has ostracized him from the gang and put him on the run and into the orbit of Turner and his two women, Pherber (Pallenberg) and Lucy (Michèle Breton).

By the end of the film, fuelled by drugs, cross-cutting techniques, a disjointed narrative and no small amount of magic, the two men have switched identities, with Chas displaying Turner’s face and Turner, well, not having a face any longer.

Warner Brothers thought that with Jagger in the movie they getting a Rolling Stones movie that young people could go see. Instead, they got a movie filled with drugs, sex, violence and ideas about cross-dressing and sex transforming identity that would still be dangerous half a century later.

The behind the scenes events — the house in Lowndes Square used in the film was investigated for drugs, Keith Richards was outside in a car fuming because Jagger and Anita were really having sex, Fox stopped acting for fifteen years to become an evangelical Christian — are just as interesting as the film, but the movie itself is astounding.

It was almost unreleased, as a Warner exec would complain, “Even the bathwater was dirty” and the wife of one of them would throw up at the premiere. Ken Hyman, the leader of Warner Brothers, decided that “no amount of editing, re-looping or re-scheduling would cover up the fact that the picture ultimately made no sense.” The film was shelved for two years until Hyman left and even then, the movie was re-edited and the Cockney accents were redubbed.

Time has been kind to Performance, a movie that points out the juxtaposition between the violent lives of East End with the rock and roll world of London. “A Memo to Turner” predates music videos. Bands from Coil to Big Audio Dynamite and Happy Mondays all referenced or sampled the movie while it’s been an influence on so many directors.

As for Cammell, he struggled against the mainstream after this movie — and with Marlon Brando, who kept asking him to write films and then deciding not to make them — before making Demon Seed, a film that deals with transformative sexuality, just like Performance. He’d make White of the Eye and Wild Side before killing himself with a shotgun. Kevin Macdonald (co-director of the story of his life, Donald Cammell: The Ultimate Performance), said “He didn’t kill himself because of years of failure. He killed himself because he had always wanted to kill himself.”

I held back watching this for years, because I wanted to make sure that I was ready for it. I needed to be prepared for this film, to not use it as wallpaper or background noise. It deserved more than that. And I’m glad I waited. It was worth it.

*It’s directed by two men as well, Cammell and Nicolas Roeg, who would go on to make Don’t Look NowThe Man Who Fell to Earth and The Witches.

The Theta Girl (2017)

Gayce (Victoria Elizabeth Donofrio) deals a drug called theta when she isn’t trying to get people in the club to see her friends’ band play. But when they’re murdered, the mind-altering substances that she’s selling turn out to be so much more than just your average LSD.

That’s because everyone in the club has been dosed with Theta as that band, Truth Foundation, hits the stage, including a group of Christian zealots that need just one fix to go completely off the rails and start killing for God. As everyone emerges from a shared trip, bodies line the flood with blood and guts spilled out occult symbols.

You know what? So often I make excuses for movies having low budgets, as do the people that make them. This thing cost $14,000 and that’s exactly what it needed to get made. If it had a huge budget, it wouldn’t be so amazingly grubby and vital and in your eyeballs.

Shane Silman is a force of nature as the obsessed Brother Marcus, the leader of the religious gang. And man, just look at that poster. Donofrio looks — and acts in the best of ways — like the spiritual heir to Christina Lindberg, which is one of the highest compliments I can give.

You can learn more at the official Facebook page. You can watch it on Amazon Prime or order the DVD from Amazon.

Check out Christopher Bickel’s other film, Bad Girls, for more greatness. And oh yeah, those Thetas were totally Lemonheads.

The Flaming Teenage (1956)

Irvin “Shorty” Yeaworth was born in German, became a singing star on Pittsburgh’s KDKA, made more than 400 religious and education films, and near the end of his life, was planning on helping to build a theme park called Jordanian Experience at the Aqaba Gateway.

That said, he’s probably best known amongst maniacs like you and me for directing The Blob.

Originally filmed in 1945 as Twice Convicted, new footage was added eleven years later and this was re-released, telling new audiences — or those duped into seeing it again — all about Fred Garland, a small town boy whose trip to the big city introduces him to booze and women of loose morals. Before you know it, he’s on the dope, shoplifting for money and by the end, happy to go to jail and get away from the life he’s been leading.

Movies like this are why it took me so long to do drugs. I was convinced that with just one inhale that I would become an addict, selling my family store and living on the street. Then I realized that my family did not have a store. Also, I was high.

You can watch this on the Internet Archive.

Microscopic Liquid Subway to Oblivion (1970)

As drug use gets out of control at a small college, one of the professors (Alex Rebar, The Incredible Melting Man himself and the writer of Demented and To All a Goodnight, as well as a contributing writer to Beyond the Door.

This starts off just right — a crazy theme, trippy visuals and Ewa Aulin (CandyDeath Laid an Egg) getting her groove on — before Dr. John, worried that the college’s reputation is being tarnished by all the drug use, particularly when one of his fellow professors takes one of those Dragnet acid trips and thinks he can fly.

The scheming professor decides to work with one of the nerdier kids to take a heroin addict named Billy (Carlo De Mejo, The House by the CemeteryThe Other Hell) and appoints himself the troubled youth’s personal savior. But then his wife — there’s Ewa Aulin — decides to try some of the horse for herself and things get out of hand.

Billy decides that this would the perfect time to test the masculinity of his captor and try to cuck him, which seems to be a bad idea when white knighting teacher takes you against your will. I mean, this is a movie with the line, “Elizabeth, have you ever seen your husband’s penis? John, have you ever seen your own penis?”

With a title like this one and Aulin appearing, along with De Mejo, it’s easy to think that this is a giallo. To be honest, even this movie has no idea what it is.

To be fair, this movie is a total mess, but a fascinating one. It was directed by a man named John Shadow, who some thought was Joe D’Amato — if only! — but it turns out that he was married to Aulin for four years and had a son together named Shawn. He used his own money to produce this movie and it ended up playing nowhere in the world.

Seriously, Shadow is a conspiracy figure. According to IMDB, in spite of numerous newspaper and magazine articles, photos, discographies, interviews with Aulin, the existence of their Swiss-born son, people think that Shadow was really Italian producer Roberto Loyola (I mean, on IMDB, he’s listed as using the name John Shadow to write Pieces and to direct Tales of Canterbury, a movie that D’Amato was also thought to have made). I mean, Shadow even wrote the songs for this movie and people still think he’s Loyola.

These are the strange mysteries that this somewhat lost movie has swirling around it. As they say, the story of the movie is better than the movie itself. To add to the occult nature of this one, the copy I found is a beat up Greek VHS* that was uploaded to YouTube and is well-nigh unwatchable. And yet, I watched it just the same.

*According to Oblivion DVD, there are only two copies of this movie left in existence.

Dope (1968)

Drug films come in two flavors. Those that make you want to try them to open your mind and explore the palace of wisdom or those that warn you that horrible things occur when you’re an addict. This film would be in the latter camp.

A documentary by Sheldon and Debbie “Flame” Schon, this movie follows a junkie named Caroline as she moves through the drug scene of 1960s London, like being painted head to toe in the style of her mentor, psychedelic artist Vali Myers.

The Schon’s lived with the characters in this film for months and there’s a disturbing downward trend toward all of their lives. The only positive is that you get to see a sequence filmed at the original UFO Club on Tottenham Court Road where Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd are playing.

This film was lost for some time, but Flame Schon was selling copies of it through her website at one point. It’s not a movie for those that hate seeing needles going in arms or worrying about addicts attempting to take care of childen, who are caught in their drug haze.

You can see how drugs grabbed people in this era, but you’re on the outside, unable to fully know its lure and how it destroyed lives because you are just someone watching from the normal world. That said, this is a strong movie that needs to be watched.

You can learn more at the film’s official site.

Almost Sharkproof (2021)

“Ah, two peas in a pod and not a pot to piss in.”
— Yuri the Knifethrower breaks it down to truth

This tale of two down-and-out, twenty-something losers reminds of Step Brothers (2008) — and a whole bunch of earlier ’80s comedies. Was it screenwriter Cameron Van Hoy’s intention to create a retro-’80s comedy? One thing is for sure: Cameron Van Hoy — who’s the screenwriter — and his fellow up-and-coming co-star Michael Drayer, are certainly as chemistry-talented as Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly.

They star as the broke and busted best buddies Vince Valley (Van Hoy) and Freddy Krebs (Drayer, who’s guest starred on the Law & Order franchise, The Sopranos, and most recently on NCIS: Los Angeles) reduced to living in a tent in the backyard of Freddy’s parents. Vince and Freddy are perpetual dreamers who, instead of getting jobs (Freddy refuses to work for the family’s Bible-publishing business), they’re always looking for the “idea of a lifetime” to strike it rich — without the hard work that goes into becoming wealthy. Their latest, can’t-miss idea: shark-proof wet suits. Of course, no one, including their put-upon parents (Dennis Haskins; Principal Belding from Saved by the Bell, Abstruse, A Bennett Song Holiday, and the we-don’t-see-her-enough Joan Severance of TV’s Wiseguy, and coolest female “Batman” ever in Black Scorpion), will back the idea.

Cue Jon Lovitz.

He’s his usual, droll pisser-self as Max (we first met him as he rants about vaginas), a local L.A. loan shark-cum-nightclub owner who, instead of fronting them the money, becomes infuriated when his crush, Isabella (the new-to-the-scene and very good Kinga Kierzek), the receiving half of a knife-throwing duo performing at the club, takes a liking to the likeable ne’er-do-wells. (You’ll recognize her act-partner, Yuri, as Ken Davitian from his most recent work in the series-streaming Corba Kai and the film Borat. Stick around for his rant about chickens and ducks.) Now Max has sent his goons to get Isabella back and take care of Vince and Freddy. Of course, it doesn’t help that she robbed Max. Will these cool-nerds get their act together to save the girl? (Stick around for the comedic-bent, Reservoir Dogs-warehouse confrontation. Funny stuff.)

While his name leads on the theatrical one-sheet — this is a Cameron Van Hoy and Michael Drayer showcase, after all (deserving so; they’re both very good, here) — Lovitz isn’t here as much as we’d like, but when he shows up, he nails his small-time gangster role, and Joan Severance reminds us why we miss seeing her on camera, as she oozes the cougar heat for her son’s best friend. (Lovitz was also equally great in his sidekick role to British rockers Status Quo, in our “Rock Week” review 2013’s Bula Quo!.)

Unlike a Judd Apatow flick written by Seth Rogan and starring Ben Stiller with James Franco, Almost Sharkproof is delightfully innocuous, which throws it all back to the comedies of the ’80s — instead of carbon-copying today’s brand of 21st Century raunch. Are the proceedings sometime clichéd? Maybe, but you never once groan, because once you get on the comedic chase through the underbelly of Los Angeles, you enjoy the retro-comedy ride that’s rife with genuine, laugh-out loud moments — all courtesy a great script by Cameron Van Hoy. If the acting thing doesn’t work out (it will; again, he’s very good) for Van Hoy, he will surely make his mark as a screenwriter to complete for the screens with Rogan.

It’s been a long-hard road to distribution for Cameron Van Hoy and his co-directors Simon Chan (his second, next feature film is the horror-western Satan’s Children) and Joe Rubalcaba (who got his start with the iCarly tween-franchise), who completed the film in 2014. And their hard work has paid off as TriCoast Worldwide, in conjunction with Rock Salt Releasing, bring Almost Sharkproof to the worldwide streaming audience on March 5, 2021.

Disclaimer: We received a screener from the distributor. That has no bearing on our review.

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 short stories and music reviews on Medium.

Curse of the Blind Dead (2021)

B&S About Movies’ buddy Bill Van Ryn gave it a hard pass. Sam Panico is groaning in anti-anticipation of watching it. And contributing B&S writer Jennifer Upton? She’s still trying to recuperate from the news that her beloved Blood Freak from 1972 got the 2021 remake treatment. The news of this film may push her double helices over the edge and transform her into the crazed turkey-woman of Polish Hill — if not a Xanax-addict — terrorizing the streets of Lawrenceville.

Tinker, Tailor, Drive-In, UHF, VHS, and celluloid thief. Oh, this friggin’ movie.

The very cool, overseas theatrical one-sheet.

The potholes facing film reviewers is that you can not measure movies in the low-budget and indie streaming verses against the major studio films. In most cases, the low-budget and indie productions will pale in comparison. A critic of streaming films from low-budget shingles and indie studios can not view those films with a mainstream filter. In the case of remakes, the critic has to separate themselves from their affections to the source material — no matter how inept or expertly-crafted it may be.

And the source material in this case is the great Spanish horror director Amando de Ossorio and his “Blind Dead” tetralogy. No lover of horror film is not a true lover of horror film without copies of, not only de Ossorio’s “Blind Dead” films, but his first horror film, Malenka, The Vampire’s Niece (1969) and his utterly bonkers Exorcist clone, Demon Witch Child (1975) (pencil that one into the schedule, Sam).

Of course, between Malenka and Demon Witch Child, de Ossorio wanted a piece of the George Romero zombie action — of course, from 1968’s The Night of the Living Dead. (The second wave of Italian and Spanish zoms would come courtesy of Romero’s 1978’s Dawn of the Dead.) So, with a few drops of the Romero plasma and a couple corpuscles of Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer’s Gothic-horror short story “El monte de las animas” (“The Mount of the Souls”; part of his 1862 short-story collection, Soria), de Ossorio concocted a tale of about a legion of 13th Century knights, known as the Templars, who, in their quest of eternal life, began committing human sacrifices and drinking human blood. And the town’s peasants around the monastery rose up and blinded the knights (who weren’t so much zombies, but mummies-cum-vampires), cursing them to ride skeletal horses . . . and woah the Spanish and Italian designer-clothed models who awoken the knights from their crypts: they were hunted down by the sound of their (out-of-sync) voices and heartbeats.

Tombs of the Blind Dead (1972) was an international success and transformed de Ossorio into a full-time horror director — no more political dramas (1956’s The Black Flag) and comedies (1967’s A Girl in the Yard) for ol’ Armie. So he churned out three more sequels on the continuing exploits of the Templar Knights: Return of the Blind Dead (1973), The Ghost Galleon (1974), and the fourth and final, Night of the Seagulls (1975). While most of us were not blessed to see them in the Drive-Ins during their initial release, we did get to see the criminally butchered versions during their replays on Friday and Saturday overnight horror blocks on UHF-TV in the ’70s and aka’d-to-death home video VHSs in the ’80s.

Now the legend goes that de Ossorio, who was making films to lesser and lesser effect — even moving into erotica with Las Alimañas (1976) and Pasión Prohibida (1980; you’ll never want to shoot a game of pool ever again), and ending his career with an abyssal Jaws knockoff, The Sea Serpent (1984) — that he completed a script in 1993 for a fifth and final “Blind Dead” film, The Necronomicon of the Templars. However, after falling off the horse (sorry), with porn and an inept Jaws rip, no producer — regardless of the classic status of the “Blind Dead” series — was interested in backing the production.

Instead, for the fifth “Blind Dead” film we got a sixth, ersatz Planet of the Apes film with Revenge from Planet Ape (1978). The short of the story: The blinded, burnt-cloaked Templars weren’t Templars: they were 3,000-year-old apes from Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973) who, it turns out, eventually lost the 20th Century Fox battle. (Now, if you never heard of this Templar-cum-Ape post-apoc flick, hold onto this trivia, because it’s coming back at you, later in the review.)

In between Night of the Seagulls and Revenge from Planet Ape, director John Gilling (Cross of the Devil, 1975; The Challenge, 1960) — with a screenplay assist from Paul Naschy (more Naschy references to come) — gave us a loose, unofficial sequel of the blind Templars with La cruz del diablo (1975). Then Jess Franco had to ruin the memories (as his usual) with his uber-cheap fest, Mansion of the Living Dead (1982). Then, German director Andreas Schnass brought back the blind knights with his shot-on-video homage-sequels Don’t Wake the Dead (2008) and Graveyard of the Dead (2009). In 2015, an unofficial short film version rose up, Island of the Blind Dead that, in a Tarantino-twist, was actually an ersatz trailer for a non-existent, lost, “Blind Dead” movie (You Tube).

And here we are in 2021 with the latest “Blind Dead” romp: one that acts as a sequel-cum-homage-cum-reboot to the de Ossorio canons courtesy of Italian horror director Raffaele Picchio, in his fourth directing and sixth writing credit. (His Morituris, The Blind King, and House of Evil have their fans and detractors in equal measure; I’ve seen the first and never sought out the other two.)

Okay, now if you’ve spend any amount of time reading my reviews, you know my jam with Italian and Spanish horror — Paul Naschy in particular. And those films have a very specific, de rigueur checklist for those films to be an Italian and Spanish horror movie:

  1. Twenty-something, curvaceously-nude Italian and Spanish models with perfectly made-up faces that never run, drip, or smudge, hair that never loses its Aqua-Net coif, and French-manicured hands that defy rotted monasteries, the dingiest of cellars, the dankest of crypts, and the darkest of twisted winter woods.
  2. The aforementioned beauties always wear graveyard-appropriate mini dresses and hot pants and they must run on chunky, Nine West loafers.
  3. The arousing, unsynchronized gasps and screams of those crypt-kickin’ hotties rival the worst dubs of Asian cinema.
  4. Fictional, creepy European historical characters and events based on real-life, creepy European historical characters and events.
  5. A horror aficionado’s grab-bag of MGM noir and Universal horror film homages.
  6. Nods to Alfred Hitchcock, William Castle, Dario Argento, and Mario Bava.
  7. Deus ex machinas, red herrings, MacGuffins, and POV shots abound.

The caveat emptor with Curse of the Blind Dead is that this sequel-cum-homage-cum-reboot to the de Ossorio canons fulfills none of these requirements. Where’s the ne’er do well gaslighting? Where’s the affairs? The ailing wife? Where’s the escaped prisoner-cum-roadside bandits? Where’s the crazy-ass kitchen sink mayhem? Where’s the women who sashay through the chilly halls and woods of the estate in the sheerest of negligees? Where’s the fortune tellers and séances? And, most importantly: Where’s the lesbianism with a dash o’ necrophilia?

Ah, because this film isn’t made for the analog-loving Methuselahs, such Billy Van Ryn, Sam Panico, Jennifer Upton, and yours truly: this is made for the Brad Pitt World War Z and Zack Synder’s Dawn of the Dead (2004) crowd enamored with the sexy-cool of Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Norman Reedus in the grunge-trendy U.S. TV series The Walking Dead.

Here we go again: another homogenized streaming one-sheet.

So, as the obligatory, budget-conscious voice over-photo montage opening credits roll with static-ridden radio broadcasts and grainy, red-tinted war footage, we learn that Armageddon arrived and turned Earth into a post-apoc wasteland. And we learn of the tales — in an almost shot-for-shot retelling of Tombs of the Blind Dead (1972) — of the Templars. And the next caveat: these are bigger-budgeted, new and improved Tempies of the rotten-zom variety. Gone are the burnt skull n’ skeletal knights of yore. And while we have a chick ridin’ the ol’ cross of St. Andrews, she’s also doin’ the white-eye possession thang and, graphically, birthing what we think is the anti-christ, but really a sacrificial baby.

Of course, the peasants breakdown the doors, capture the knights, and burn out their eyes. Now, it’s important to point out: the opening credits and the 13th Century-period setting looks really good. The costumes, the sets, the (graphic) effects (I don’t do babies in horror none-to-well), and actors are top-notch. It’s a great preamble. . . .

Then, there’s the rest of the movie that, without the rotten knights . . . and an ergotic plague wiping out the grass-grains family added . . . we’re watching Cornell Wilde’s post-apoc take on the biblical tale of Exodus with No Blade of Grass. But that has has no zombies, just biker gangs. So, since we have zombie-things terrorizing the folks — and remembering that Paul Naschy is in the mix of this review — we have a gooey smidgen from Paul Naschy’s The People Who Own the Dark (1975), his (low-budgeted) updated take on de Ossorio’s “Blind Dead” series — sans the knights, natch — with his post-apoc rework of Night of the Living Dead (1968) of eye-bandaged townsfolk hunting down post-Armageddon survivors by sound. Oh, and since we’re frolicking through the bowels of an old, burnt out factory, we got a soupçon Richard Harris and his forgotten apoc-romp, Ravagers.

And remember when I said, “Don’t forget about Revenge from Planet Ape?” Well, in that “Blind Dead” retooling, we had a group of ne’er do wells surviving in a post-apoc world with resurrected zombie apes. . . .

A year later . . .

Micheal (Aaron Stielstra of Landing Lake; ironically reminding me of Jeffrey DeMunn, crossed with Christopher Meloni; if this were a major studio or mini-major U.S.-made film, they probably being starring), encouraged by a radio broadcast urging survivors to “Paradise,” a utopian encampment, treks through the deep woods. Of course, as is the case with any post-apoc film: even in the throes of the end of the world, men be needin’ the nookie because the key to survival is rape. And Lily, (Alice Zanini; in her first international film), his pregnant daughter (incest is insinuated), is purty. So, when they’re ambushed by bandits (bandits? Check!), the members of a religious sect rescue them — via crossbows and shotguns, praise, Jesus!

Templars: Turning man into meat puppets one human at a time.

Then, there’s 30-minutes of religious weirdness and betrayal inside a bombed out factory-sanctuary (that’s not “Paradise”) and some eye-patched Ron L. Hubbard-type who sees Lily’s baby as a prophesied savior. Uh, oh. This is a sect that worships the Templars and needs the baby as a gift to them, for zombie knights, for reasons unknown, can stop the apocalypse. Or something.

Finally, time for Tempies . . . and they, uh . . . just walk out of the darkness of an archway? Where’s the graveyard? Where the slowly, creepy, concrete scraping of sarcophagus lids releasing a fog and the boney arms n’ hands rising up? (Dude, the toy-boat ineptness of The Ghost Galleon is looking better already.)

Then . . . it’s just a bunch of “What are we gonna do now” running around an old factory. And camouflaged pant and combat-booted Lily’s constant wailing is annoying as frack. (Maybe if it was out-of-sync?) Where’s the hot, mini-skirted Spanish model tripping on her heels when we need her?

Finally! The skeletal ghost horses show up, and, uh . . . that’s it? I hope you didn’t go take a piss or get fed up and fast forward through it.

On the gore scale: We get (two) Scleral-contacted possessions of the Linda Blair variety (Why, I don’t know), a black orb next to the sun (I don’t know why; I think it’s a planet that came into Earth’s orbit and fucked up the world-by-eclipse), a freshly-born devil baby ripped in half (again, puking; if a dog showed up, I’d have stopped watching), a self-thumb removal, slithering-to-the-floor innards, a few throat slits, a pretty decent spine removal-by-Templar (Why, I don’t know, the old Tempies could barely break through nailed-to-the-window wood scraps), a disemboweled gut munching (de Ossorio’s never did that), and a backwards head pulled-apart-by-the mouth (again, the boney arms of de Ossorio’s could barley break wood). And I am not down with Lily’s birth-by-a-pipe-blow-to-the-stomach (if not at almost the end of the movie, the stop button would engage right then and there). And again, while the Tempies ain’t the Tempies of old and disappoint because they ain’t de Ossorio Tempies, the effects make-ups are, none-the-less, very well done.

And then the black hole sun does “something,” as it moves over the sun and the Tempies fry and everyone looks up and “something” is happening here, and it ain’t exactly Buffalo Springfield clear.

Da fuck? Why are the credits rolling? Calling Neil deGrasse Tyson: we need an astrophysicist explanation for it all.

1972 vs. 2010.

So . . . is this a severed thumbs up or down?

Well, I’ve watched the “Blind Dead” tetralogy via my four well-worn VHS tapes many, many times over the years. For they’re are my Phantasm or Rocktober Blood. They are my The People Who Own the Dark, my Panic Beats, and my Horror Rises from the Tomb (the last two themselves with “Blind Dead” vibes) celluloid altars perpetually VCR-programmed every Halloween.

However, Curse of the Blind Dead, for me, is a-watched-and-done film, as it has none of the de Ossorio-sphere that makes his four cheapies so special to me. I always err to the filmmaker who makes do with what they’ve got (which is why it’s always Phantasm I over II, Escape from New York over L.A. and the ’77 to ’83, non-CGI Star Wars cuts), so while they’re not exactly the films de Ossorio wanted, he still made an engrossing film. I will not, however, dismiss Raffaele Picchio’s extremely competent effort with the adjective of “sucks.” I believe that the new, young bucks of the streaming verse who are not Ossorio-versed, will watch this film today — and twenty years from now — will watch Picchio with the same wide-eyed nostalgia I watch the de Ossorio originals. What’s the worst case scenario, here? That Picchio inspired streamers to seek out de Ossorio’s “Blind Dead” romps? The more de Ossorio fans, the better, I say.

If you were fortunate (you old bastard) to see the de Ossorio originals during their initial Drive-In runs or could afford the later DVD and Blu-ray restorations (you disposable income rich bastard), you know that while de Ossorio didn’t have the budgetary resources of Picchio, de Ossorio’s films are still — despite those films not achieving “the vision in his head” as result of their budgetary constraints — are an exquisite watch. The grainy, 16mm documentary vibe of the films that most of us experienced during the their UHF-TV and VHS replays were result of those TV prints coming from less-than-stellar, “road showed” Drive-In reels emulsion-scratched to hell and back again. Then, their incessant rental-replays on the ‘80s home video market beat them to hell and back again, and again. The irony, however, is that “to hell and back again” consumer processing — as it did with Romero’s The Night of the Living Dead — only lent, more so, to the film’s documentary-grainy, dream-like qualities (of course, de Ossorio shot through filters and stop-speeds to add to the ghostly qualities as the Templar’s rode their skeletal steeds).

I wonder if Tarantino had made Curse of the Blind Dead, would he — as he did with his Planet Terror/Death Proof project (2007) — have purposely shot the film slightly out of focus and “damaged” the film stock to achieve what he first saw — what we all saw — on VHS?

As I watched Curse of the Blind Dead, I reflected back on the work of Peter Hyams with his efforts to sequel-remake-homage Kubrick’s landmark moment with 2010: The Year We Made Contact. After the completion of the production of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Kubrick had all of the sets — as well as its production ephemera — destroyed. As result, Hyams, with photographs created from the initial film, re-created all of the Discovery’s models, costumes, and interiors. And if Hyams never disclosed that fact, you’d never know it (sometimes, filmmakers should just keep their mouths shut; they keep ruining the wonders of going to the movies). If Hyams or a Hollywood A-Lister remade de Ossorio, I think we would have gotten a Tarantino-cum-Rob Zombie approach. There’s no way, with their meticulous-to-a-fault fanboyitis (they are one of us, after all), the “Q” or the “Z” would fuck with our mutually-beloved Tempies; it would be as if they found the mothballed original knights — with their bony hands that reach through the tiniest cracks of walls and doors — and stallion shrouds buried in a corner of an Italian prop house. . . .

But this all just a bunch of “Who Shot John?” at this point . . . and you just want to get to the trailers, already.

Regardless of the critical left hooks Picchio’s taking to the chin (the comments on the streaming trailers are cruel, but funny), he made a good film that’s on an analogous quality level of everyone’s most recent exposure to the world of zombies and ghouls: The Walking Dead. And we all know — regardless of that series’ detractors — that AMC U.S. TV series is a high-quality product. And if you enjoy the exploits of Jeffrey Dean Morgan swingin’ “Lucille,” then you’ll enjoy Curse of the Blind Dead. And we — yes, including moi — the de Ossorio purists, are a bunch of stubborn, judgmental old bastards who need to live in the now, give up our inner de Ossorio, and give Pocchio a break. (Duck, Pocchio! Another critic is coming in for another “Lucille.”)

The overseas theatrical and U.S. streaming trailers. Which is the better cut?

Curse of the Blind Dead will be released March 2, 2021, by Uncork’d Entertaiment and High Octane Pictures. You can enjoy behind-the-scenes and film stills at the film’s official Facebook page. We’ve also recently review another Uncork’d Entertainment Italian-import, the stellar The Funeral Home. We also reviewed High Octane’s Italian-import, Landing Lake.

Disclaimer: We were sent a screener by the film’s P.R. firm. That has no bearing on our review.

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 short stories and music reviews on Medium.

Christiane F. (1981)

“Once there were mountains on mountains
Once there were sun birds to soar with and once I could never be down
I got to keep searching and searching
Oh, what will I be believing and who will…”

David Bowie, that chameleonic 20th century demigod, had transmuted from his Halloween Jack and plastic soul “Young Americans” look to become a new and much darker character, the Thin White Duke, given to “throwing darts in lover’s eyes.”

The Duke was the flipside of Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust, the evil antonym second self of the Man Who Fell to Earth, who at first looked much simpler and more normal than the past versions of who audiences had come to expect Bowie being. Yet he was a character of contradictions, in Bowie’s own words “A very Aryan, fascist type; a would-be romantic with absolutely no emotion at all but who spouted a lot of neo-romance.”

The Duke was beyond amoral; he’d make statements supporting Hitler and give alleged sieg heil salutes outside London Victoria station. Was it theater? Or was it a steady diet of red peppers, milk, and hard drugs, further fuelled by paranoia, Kabbala and Crowley teachings, and the constant fear that witches were coming for him, leading him to keeping all of waste matter in a series of locked refrigerators?

Realizing that the Thin White Duke was “a very nasty character indeed,” Bowie left California and headed to West Berlin with Iggy Pop. Unlike Ziggy, the Duke did not have a public retirement. He just went away.

“I brought my baby home, she, she sat around forlorn
She saw my TVC one five, baby’s gone, she
She crawled right in, oh my, she crawled right in my
So hologramic, oh my TVC one five
Oh, so demonic, oh my TVC one five”

Christiane Vera Felscherinow grew up in West Berlin with an abusive alcoholic father and an absent mother, lost in the throes of an affair. By 12, she was smoking hash. She soon moved to pills, LSD and heroin. And by the time she was 14, she was hooked on smack and hooking on corners.

Kai Hermann and Horst Rieck from the news magazine Stern met her when she was a witness in a trial for a man who was paying sex workers with smack. They had the idea that she’d help them tell the hidden story of Berlin’s teen drug epidemic. A two-hour interview turned into two months, as Felscherinow provided them with enough stories to be in a weekly series of articles that became the book Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo, the story of her life between 12 and 15.

After the initial success of the book and the film made from it — we’ll get to that in a bit — she became a star, with her look emulated by young girls who made pilgrimages to the Bahnhof Zoo. Along with her boyfriend, Einstürzende Neubauten member Alexander Hacke, she released two albums under the name Sentimentale Jugend. They also appeared together in the movie Decoder.

When she came to America to promote the film, she was busted for heroin and had to leave the country. In 2013, while promoting her second book Mein Zweites Leben [My Second Life], she told VICE that she still had to consume methadone and claimed that she never wanted to give up drugs. She suffers today from a combination of hepititus C and cirrhosis of the liver, and said in that article, “I will die soon, I know that. But I haven’t missed out on anything in my life. I am fine with it. So this isn’t what I’d recommend: this isn’t the best life to live, but it’s my life.”

“Come see, come see, remember me?
We played out an all night movie role
You said it would last, but I guess we enrolled
In 1984 (who could ask for more)”

Christiane F. is the very definition of a rough watch. Unlike the gentlemen junkies media had presented up to now, the addicts of this story are still children, passing out in public bathrooms, covered in piss and blood and vomit, washing out needles in the toilet to use them again, selling themselves for just one fix and passing through lives as unloved forgotten husks.

The love of music — of David Bowie! — brings our heroine to SOUND, a club where she takes her first pills, which leads to LSD, which leads to heroin after a Bowie show that barely anyone enjoys as they’re so bombed out of their brains, yet there’s a radiant rock star in their midst*.

The love of a young boy is even worse, because that’s why the heroin starts, and when he goes, the heroin stays. Selling her body is just another way to stay close to the boy, who sells his body to men for the drugs he needs to stay alive. or stay dead, who can say.

She and the boy try to go cold turkey together after a friend dies, but one trip to the Bahnhof Zoo ruins it all. They run to one of his clients houses and she walks in on the man taking the man she loves from behind and runs, finding that more of their friends are dying all around them before she overdoses herself, but lives.

“I can remember
Standing, by the wall
And the guns, shot above our heads
And we kissed, as though nothing could fall
And the shame, was on the other side”

At the German premiere of the film, Bowie picked up Felscherinow in a limousine.

“I thought David Bowie was going to be the star of my movie, but it was all about me,” she said. And she didn’t really like the movie that much.

*Actually, the footage shown is an AC/DC show in Berlin, juxtaposed with footage of Bowie shot in New York City.

Walk the Walk (1970)

This film starts with a title card that says, “America’s Fearless Showman Kroger Babb.”

No matter what happens after that, I love this movie.

Bernie Hamilton, who was Capt. Harold Dobey on Starsky and Hutch, as well as appearing in Scream Blacula ScreamThe Swimmer and Luis Buñuel’s The Young One, is Mike, a black theology student dealing with addiction.

Writer, actor and producer Jac Zacha had aspirations here, but the film falters. Supposedly, there was a cut opening where he explained how this was the true story of his life. Maybe he wanted to take that out after, you know, there’s that scene when a woman goes off a cliff. Beyond being as convincing as a falling in a Fulci movie, this movie would implicate him in a death.

One of the actors in here, Eric Weston, would go on to write and direct Evilspeak.

You can watch this on the amazing ByNWR site.

Alice In Acidland (1969)

Rescued by Something Weird, Alice In Acidland starts as a nudie cutie before its black and white sequences go full color once that acid gets dropped.

Alice (Sheri Jackson, The BabysitterLove Camp 7) is a good college girl who goes to a party with her not-so-good friend Kathy (Janice Kelly, Run, Swinger, Run!) being thrown by their French teacher Frieda (Julia Blackburn, The Ramrodder). What follows are baths, nudity, sex, more drugs, orgies, more nudity, more sex and more drugs for an hour and a few extra minutes. None of the sex is hardcore, but mainly the titilation that pre-Deep Throat films usually end up having.

Donn Greer, who directed and produced this, also is the narrator, saying things like, “Removing her clothes, Alice changed into a costume more befitting her new personality. She now belonged to another society, another world. A world of Pot, LSD and Free Love. Alice Trenton, as her father knew her, was dead. Long Live Alice. She had now become a wild and provocative twinight hippie. Complete with the Indian beads and moccasins.” and “Here was her chance to prove that she belonged in the sex-for-pleasure inner circle, and prove it she did.”

This was written by Gertrude Steen, which has to be a Greer pen name.

You can download this from the Internet Archive.