Also known as Swinger’s Massacre and Super Swinging Playmates, this is the kind of scuzzy, ugly and dingy movie that doesn’t even try to make its sex sexy. Instead, it’s just an excuse for a man to lose control of his perfect life and gradually become a killer.
Charlie is an older suburbanite lawyer who has been married to his gorgeous wife Amy for about ten years. He feels like their love life has been stilted, despite her claiming that she’ll do anything he wants. And what he wants is to swing, because it’s 1974, and heads to a party thinking that once he’s there, his old man body will turn all the ladies on. Well, shockingly he gets one willing lover but can’t perform while his wife does more than enjoy herself. She soon becomes the one asking him to engage with other lovers.
Before you know it, anyone who has ever touched Amy must die.
Shot inside Filthy McNasty’s, a bar on the Sunset Strip where Evel Knievel, Phyllis Diller, Elvis Presley and Mick Jagger once were regulars and would one day become the Viper Room, many years after this movie was forgotten.
Directed by Ron Garcia and shot back-to-back with most of the same cast and crew as Don Jones’ Abduction, this movie somehow has Uschi Digard, Marsha Jordan and Rene Bond in its cast and still comes off as one of the unsexiest sexual films you’ll ever see. Garcia also made The Toy Box, which plays in a very similar space but is somehow even stranger. It’s like he wanted people to think that his movies were titilating and then, he’d club them over the head with weirdness or just plain brutal scenes of murder. No wonder he directed several episodes of Silk Stalkings.
Look, if you’re Charlie and you can’t rise to the occasion when you’re in bed with Jordan, who was in plenty of Harry Novak movies and Count Yorga, well I guess that your only choice is to start killing all your swinger friends. Good thing Viagra finally was created.
The thing is, Charlie is presented as sympathetic when he’s the one that wanted to be part of the free love scene, talking his wife into it and just because she’s enjoying pleasure and just because others are enjoying her, well, be careful what you ask for. Sure, it’s problematic, but if you’re looking for a great message in a 1974 exploitation movie that Something Weird release, maybe you should sit and spin.
Four college coeds are on their way to Florida for vacation and pass through a small Georgia town where one of their number watches a couple have sex in the woods, argue and then the man kills the woman. It just so happens that he’s the town’s sherriff, which means that they’re trapped in the town overnight and perhaps headed to an early demise.
This is the kind of movie that starts like a comedy and progressively gets meaner, nastier and much sleazier as time goes on and any hope of a happy ending starts running out.
Director Richard Styles has going to be the film’s producer and never intended to actually be directing, but he did and turned out something unique in the slasher genre; the killer shows signs of remorse, but he knows that if he wants to keep his position in town, everyone in his way must die.
Several years after a falling out with her family in Detroit, a young mother named Jenny (Eleanor Lambert, the daughter of Christopher Lambert and Diane Lane) returns to the Motor City to mourn the sudden death of her twin brother Gonzo.
She soon finds herself joining her brother’s strange group of friends and exploring what’s left of Detroit. She learns that her brother was the man that was always there for everyone. But soon, she starts to learn that his death may not be what it seems to be.
So many movies we review seem to be about the inabiity to go home again. Perhaps filmmakers are working out their tough childhoods through their art. This is another example of that, but it’s a story well shot and director and writer Spencer King seems to be just getting started. Here’s to seeing what he does next.
Time Now is available in theaters and on demand from Dark Star Pictures and Uncork’d Entertainment.
22. BEASTS OF BURDEN: One where a horse/donkey/mule/ox etc is doing some serious work.
This was supposed to be Devil Story but I got so excited after I watched it that I jumped the gun and posted it, thinking that surely I’d find another movie to fit the bill.
I spent almost this entire month trying to find another one.
This is an episode of the show Ghost Story, which changed its name to Circle of Fear midway through its one season. Executive produced by William Castle, the original idea for the show was to have Sebastian Cabot play Winston Essex, the owner of a mysterious hotel called Mansfield House, which was really San Diego’s Hotel del Coronado where Wicked Wicked was filmed.
By episode 14 of 22, the show was retitled and Cabot was out and the show still suffered poor ratings, despite featuring writers like Robert Bloch, Harlan Ellison, D.C. Fontana and Jimmy Sangster.
Episode 15 was Dark Vengeance, which was written by Peter Dixon (whose career was all over the place in TV, working on everything from the Superman 1950s TV series to the Masters of the Universe cartoon) and directed by Herschel Daugherty (The Victim).
While working at a construction site, Frank (an incredibly, near imposible young Martin Sheen) finds a box that can;t be opened. He becomes obsessed with it and finally is able to break into it, revealing only a broken mirror and a toy horse that upsets his wife Cindy (KIm Darby, queen of the TV movie supernatural heroines) to increasing mania.
Of course Cindy would have a past with the horse. But how do you get it back in the box or even destroy it when it can even survive being set ablaze?
There’s no way a goofy wooden horse should be so damned frightening, but everyone is beyond committed to making this happen. Man, after seeing this episode, now I have an entire series to devour. This show suffered comparisons to Night Gallery, but after all, shouldn’t every anthology show made ever after Serling’s masterwork suffer that fate?
DAY 22 — BEASTS OF BURDEN: One where a horse/donkey/mule/ox, etc. (or a jungle cat?), is doing some serious work.
Sam, the head honcho at B&S About Movies, speaks a lot of celluloid truths: one of them is that Donald Pleasence really will take anything for a paycheck. Now, Ross Hagan, we know that he always takes everything offered. But wow . . . why is the stunning Nancy Kwan, here? Well, when times are tough and a buck is a buck, you sign on the dotted line for a ripoff of The Most Dangerous Game* — only set on a hunter’s private island. To that end: Donnie is our big-game hunter (and entrepreneur, race car driver, archeological temple restorer, etc.) who brings a killer leopard to his private island, turns it loose, and starts his hunt. Oops! Don’s daughter, played by Nancy Kwan, with her Texan squeeze, played by Ross Hagan, show up for an unexpected visit. Or something or other. . . .
Yeah, in the tradition of William Girdler’s Grizzly, we sort have a Jaws ripoff, here, or as we like to say, a “Bastard Pups of Jaws,” with a killer leopard on the loose, gnawing its way through its cast . . . like one of those killer dog flicks (which we explore in full, with our “Ten Horror Movie Dogs” feature) starring Joe Don Baker, David McCallum, and Richard Crenna. Yep. Just like a William Girdler flick — be it Grizzly . . . or Abby or Project: Kill or Day of the Animals or, hell, The Manitou, which, even though it’s based on a best-selling novel, is still a cash-in on The Omen — Night Creature, aka the poor leopard who was captured by ol’ Donnie and dumped here, doesn’t have an original spot on its hide.
But wait . . . it’s an all black leopard.
Eh, all I know is that Lee Madden, he of my beloved biker romps Hell’s Angels ’69 (1969) and Angel Unchained (1970), is knocking out his second horror film of the triple-threat that takes Charles Manson, washed-up studio contract players, aka “Hags,” and Jesus Christ to exploitation task with The Night God Screamed (1971).
Sadly, even with my fandom for those entries in Madden’s resume, I’ve never made the effort to seek out his sexploitation-action romp about three girls running their own brothel with The Manhanders (1974), which is an oversight that only a Mill Creek public domain box set can correct. I will not, however, ever . . . never, subject myself to Mr. Madden’s final film, Ghost Fever, for I have no desire to see a movie with TV’s George Jefferson as its star. (Besides, Madden knew a real dog when he scratches the fleas: he took the Alan Smithee credit.) Anyway, after Angel Unchained, this is Madden’s second and final writing credit, which, again, serves as his second and final horror film after — IMO — his best film, The Night God Screamed.
Speaking of movie wisdoms: Bill Van Ryn of Drive-In Asylum loves films — such as Prey — where nothing happens. But I don’t even think the Ryn can handle these maddening Madden reels of nothingness. Thankfully, someone took the time to cut this meandering, 83-minute snore fest into a 13-minute edit. Yeah, its like that: 70-plus minutes of this film isn’t necessary to get to the point of it all.
However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you something about the film.
Well, it’s not — in spite of the “Donald Pleasence of Halloween” plug — a horror film: this is pure a thriller . . . with no thrills nor suspense. And the leopard is just a regular, run-of-the-mill leopard: it’s not possessed by Satan or injected with any manipulated DNA strands. The poor leopard is just sacred — after it’s capture from its jungle home in Thailand — and dumped into a foreign habitat. Wouldn’t you be pissed off after being drugged and caged and dumped in a foreign wood? Man encroaches on the animals’ environment, but the animal is the “monster.” So either kill it or capture it, for the tourism trade can’t suffer.
And suffer the animal does.
We are in the middle of Thailand and shooting on the sly, so PETA wasn’t on site, and it’s 1978 pre-CGI, so yes: We have ourselves a vile-as-fuck Ruggero Deodato joint of the who-gives-a-fuck-about-spider monkeys-and-river turtles variety, for we need the cat to do what we need it to do before we loose “the Golden Hour.”
Then there’s the not so “magical” cinematography.
Here we are, in the middle of one of the most exotic lands on the friggin’ planet, and yet, Lee Madden managed to make Thailand look like a shot-through-cheese cloth fucking mess. Even the Nancy Kwan, Jennifer Rhodes, and Russ Hagan (as our resident Texan-styled tour guide, natch) sub-plotted love triangle is an utter bore. Oh, but out-sucking the lover’s plot is the POV-cat stalking, which is out-sucked by the voice over narration required to thread the travel log footage into non-coherency.
Everything in this movie sucks. Shame on Lee Madden for snookering a film studio for a free Thailand vacation as a poor leopard suffered for it.
Don’t pay a time for this offense to cinema. Watch it for free on You Tube — if only to scratch another Donald Pleasence flick off that must-watch-everything-Donnie-ever-did watch list.
* We run down the “human death sport” genre in our review of Elio Petri’s sci-if pop art’er, The 10th Victim.
About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.
We watched Conor McMahon’s Let the Wrong One Inlast month, which led us to this movie, in which Richard Grindle is Stitches the clown, cursed by an egg to always remain alive until he finishes the party that he was at where a group of unruly kids jerked around and caused his very violent death.
Years later, as he’s restored to his undead life, Stitches hunts down each of the kids who caused his death one by one and dispatches them in a manner most unbecoming to a happy clown.
With shoutouts to A Nightmare On Elm Street — main character Tommy takes the same Hypnocil that the Elm Street kids did to keep their dreams from happening — and no small amount of the grisly red stuff, consider Stitches if you’ve run out of slashers for your October watching.
Yes, if you’re going to watch one Bollywood Freddy movie — hello Mahakaal — you should watch another.
This movie is a mess, but it’s also a buffet of the first three A Nightmare on Elm Street films all at once with many of the best kills being redone on a much smaller budget.
This one is about Ranjit, a stalker who gets put in a mental asylum after he won’t leave some teens alone, and one of them — Rekha — hates him so much that it gives him the supernatural power to ruin lives. After nearly being strangled in a game of tug of war, the kids toss the nascent ek hajaar paagalon ka kameena beta into a campfire, so the kids do the right thing and hide the body becauseI Know What You Did Last Summer wouldn’t come out in India for 8 years.
Watching Bollywood versions of your favorite films takes some getting used to, as this starts with nearly an hour of stalking and courtroom drama before suddenly becoming a greatest hits package, along with not funny at all comedy filler and multiple song and dance numbers, all so that the running time is so long you really could have watched all the movies that it was inspired by — ripped off — in the same time.
EDITOR’S NOTE: We may have covered these films before, but this is truly a set that I’ve been asking about for years. I’m beyond overjoyed that this is coming out and even more excited that Arrow is the company putting it out.
Yokai Monsters: 100 Monsters (1968)
Daiei could produce a masterpiece like Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon while still putting out movies that featured Gamera, Zatoichi, Daimajin and the Yokai Monsters, who are based on the monsters of Japanese folklore. They may be evil creatures who cause great misfortune and harm or — quite the opposite — could also be beings that bring good fortune to those who meet them.
Much like the aforementioned films like Gamera and Daimajin, this is a tokusatsu film that uses practical effects, including actors in costumes, puppets and animation to tell the story.
That story is really about a rich landowner, who wants to tear down a local shrine to build a brothel. He cheaps out and after telling the stories of the yokai, neglects to pay for the ceremony to keep them out. They soon go wild in the town, partying down as they arrive with sake.
Known in Japan as Yokai Hyaku Monogatari, this was directed by Kimiyoshi Yasuda, who made six of the Zatoichi movies. It suffers the sin of some Godzilla movies, in that we don’t really care about the humans. We just want the monsters. And we’ve been promised a hundred of them!
The following film, Yokai Monsters: Spook Warfare, came out the same year and realizes this issue and instead fills nearly every moment of the movie with monster after monster. This is good. That movie is great.
Yokai Monsters: Spook Warfare (1968)
1968 saw the release of Yokai Monsters: 100 Monsters, but just seven months later, director Kuroda Yoshiyuki (Daimajin, several Zatoichi films) made this sequel, which takes the main ideas of presenting Japan’s native monsters, perhaps finds some inspiration from the manga GeGeGe no Kitaro and the story of Momotaro, take a strong shot of national Japanese pride and remembers that no one cares about the humans in the story. We’re here to see monsters. And oh man, are we gonna get them!
In the Babylonian city of Ur, the body of the great monster Daimon lies amongst the ruins. That is, until some treasure hunters rouse him from his dark sleep, which leads to him flying to Japan, vampirically taking over the body of samurai Lord Hyogo Isobe.
As Isobe, Daimon goes wild, burning all the religious altars, killing the family dog and even rousing a kappa — a “river child” turtle creature who loves to wrestle — from his slumber in the river. Hurt in combat with the much stronger Daimon, the kappa begins his quest to unite the yokai and stop the foul beast.
Soon, the kappa meets Kasa-obake (a one-legged umbrella with eyes), Futakuchi-onna (a two-mouthed cursed woman), Rokurokubi (a long-necked woman who often appears in the more adult kaiden stories), Nuppeppo (a clay creature who resembles a blob of meat) and Abura-sumashi (a wise ghost of a human who once stole oil). They tell him that according to coloring books and field guides, no such yokai exists.
Meanwhile, Daimon has stopped his attempted exorcism and responded by killing the parents of several children. As his men hunt for the surviving kids, they hide in the yokai shrine. Soon, the monsters realize the kappa was telling the truth and join him in battle, which ends up involving nearly every single monster from across Japan.
Takashi Miike remade this movie in 2005 as The Great Yokai War, which also features Kitaro creator Mizuki in a cameo.
Seriously, this movie took a bad day and made anything seem possible. This is pure joy on film.
Yokai Monsters: Along with Ghosts (1969)
The third and final Yokai Monsters movie, this time directed by Yoshiyuki Kuroda and Kimiyoshi Yasuda, takes us back to feudal Japan, where Miyo has discovered evidence that could stop the corruption in her town, but when her grandfather is murdered on sacred grounds, she needs the help of the Yokai.
Unlike the second movie — which is everything you want, as it is literally packed with monsters — this is more of a horror film, using the yokai in a more frightening way as they move into becoming the guardians of youth, which seems to be the fate of nearly every Japanese monster once the sequels start adding up.
It’s nice to see all of the monsters when they do show, but after the delirious Yokai Monsters: Spook Warfare, this felt like a step backward. Not a bad step, but still not in the direction I wanted.
The Great Yokai War (2005)
If someone is going to make a new Yokai movie, it really should be Takeshi Miike, who draws inspiration from Aramata Hiroshi’s Teito Monogatari, the Spook Warfare movie and Mizuki Shigeru’s GeGeGe no Kitaro manga. All three — and this movie — are just different takes on the legend of Momotaro driving the demons away from Kikaigashima.
Where this adaption changes the game is that it’s not about Japan against outside forces, but really about the old ways versus the modern world, as the enemy demons are all mechanical robotic beasts that feel like they’d be right at home in the Luigi Cozzi movie.
It tells the tale of Tadashi Ino, a young boy who moves to a small town after his parents’ divorce. At the festival of his village, he is picked as that year’s Kirin Rider, but beyond that being just a ceremonial title, he ends up really being the protector of all things good and must defend the town against Yasunori Kato, who demands revenge for how modern Japan has disrespected the yokai. To gain that vengeance, he transforms them in a magical forge into kikai that takes a page out of Dr. Robotnik and transforms friendly yokai into enemies.
Sadly, for all the adventures in this film, when you grow up, you lose the ability to see yokai.
Despite the move toward CGI in this, its still a charming film. Of course, it’s also a Miike movie, so it can have cute and cuddly creature in one scene and a fetal demon being born in blood the next, so prepare yourself.
The only thing this set is missing is the sequel to this film, which just came out in Japan, The Great Yokai War: Guardians. As if this movie didn’t have enough creatures in it, Daimajin appears (check out that Arrow box set too)!
Arrow’s limited edition box set include high definition blu rays of all four movies, as well as an illustrated 60-page collectors’ book featuring new writing on the series by Stuart Galbraith IV, Raffael Coronelli and Jolyon Yates; reversible sleeves, postcards and a yokai guide illustrated by Yates.
There are also trailers, a documentary to get Western audiences up to speed on yokai, new audio commentary by Japanese cinema expert Tom Mes for The Great Yokai War as well as archive interviews with the cast and crew including Takashi Miike. There are also two shorts about the yokai from that film and two more stories about the kappa Kawataro, two shorts featuring the continuing story of the kappa character in the film.
This is a set that I’ve wanted to see for as long as I’ve been collecting movies. Arrow has gone above and beyond to make it exactly what I dreamed. You can get this from MVD and Diabolik DVD.
All four films are also available on the ARROW player. Head over to ARROW to start your 30 day free trial (subscriptions are available for $4.99 monthly or $49.99 yearly). ARROW is available in the US, Canada and the UK on the following Apps/devices: Roku (all Roku sticks, boxes, devices, etc), Apple TV & iOS devices, Android TV and mobile devices , Fire TV (all Amazon Fire TV Sticks, boxes, etc), and on all web browsers at https://www.arrow-player.com.
21. BARN HOWLS: There are strange things afoot at the farm. Bonus points if you see a pumpkin patch!
Between the cinematography of Dean Semler (The Road Warrior, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome) and the lunatic vision of Russell Mulcahy (who was known for his music videos before making movies like this and Highlander; some of the videos he directed include “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles, “Vienna” by Ultravox and tons of Cultre Club and Duran Duran songs), Razorback looks better than any movie about a gigantic rampaging pig should.
But not just any pig. A giganic razorback that’s so maniacal that it eats its own young and now has the power to implicate men in the murder of their family. That kind of pig. Most of the film’s budget went to making six animatronic pigs that were used for different stunts, including a special boar made to attack cars.
As for real boars, they really are pretty tough. Can they be stabbed in the throat and keep going? I honestly don’t want to find out for myself. But hey — this is a Jaws on land film that even has “New Moon on Monday” show up on the soundtrack. And there are moments where the camerawork gets nearly psychedelic and you think, “Hey, is this art or a movie with a giant pig that eats people?”
“You know what sells films, sweetie: tits and cheap lighting. What in the hell is this artsy-fartsy brass bed in the middle of the desert crap? How in the hell am I suppose to recycle this into another film? And we’re calling it ‘Cemetery Girls,’ got it?” — Roger Corman schools Stephanie Rothman on the fine art of exploitation filmmaking (not really, we are trying — and failing — at being funny)
This is the type of review I enjoying writing for B&S About Movies, as it was born out of chatting about film with our loyal readers whom reach out to us via review comments, our feedback form, or social media.
The review begins when I had chats with Mike Perkins, professional librarian extraordinaire, who, in working with B&S About Movies’ friend and contributor, Mike Justice of The Eerie Midnight Detective Agency site, solved the mystery of the short-lived career of ’70s actor Peter Carpenter (which we discuss within a two-fer review of Peter’s work in Vixen! and Love Me Like I Do).
Then Mike Perkins and I got to talking about Peter Carpenter’s he-was-there-then-he-was-gone doppelganger in actor Gene Shane . . . and, as with Pete, there’s little-to-nothing known about Gene’s life after he wrapped up career his with The Velvet Vampire. As with Pete: Gene only did four films: the others are Run, Angel, Run! (1969), the lost Bernard L. Kowalksi* flick with David Janssen, Macho Callahan (1970), and Werewolves on Wheels (1971). Unlike Pete: Gene branched off into legit TV series, with the ratings-toppers The High Chaparral and Bonanza (1969), but he got his start in the short-lived, forgotten series The Guns of Will Sonnett and The Outcasts (1968).
And so ends the resume of Gene Shane . . . well . . . if we believe the Digital Content Managers of the IMDb, which list Gene starring as “Jesus” — of all characters — in the 2004 Larry Buchanan quasi-documentary, The Copper Scroll of Mary Magdalene (see his Jim Morrison romp Down On Us, aka Beyond the Doors, for more on the ‘Buch’s paranoia-docs lifespan). Ah, but ye DCM’ers of the IMDb, busted again, ye are: that film is actually The Rebel Jesus shot in the ’70s and shelved. Buchanan finally got around to editing it for its 2004 release — when he died. (Oh, get this: the film also stars Garth Pillsbury from Peter Carpenter’s Vixen! — so there’s that to mull over.)
So, what does that mean?
Well, Gene Shane, aka Duece Berry in Werewolves on Wheels, if you’re keeping track, like Peter Carpenter before him — vanished from the face of the Earth after four films, with The Velvet Vampire, in fact, as is his last work (plot spoiler: or is it?).
Cue Mike Perkins to the B&S About Movies cubicle farm: he’s already on The Case of Gene Shane. So stayed tuned . . . for the ‘Perk will find out, and when he knows, you’ll know, right here on the pages of B&S About Movies.
Alrighty, then. Let’s unpack The Velvet Vampire.
So, yeah, Roger Corman, who bankrolled this through his New World Pictures shingle, didn’t like the end product — so he dumped The Velvet Vampire into Drive-Ins on a double-bill with Jose Luis Merino’s (awesome!) Spanish-Italian co-production Scream of the Demon Lover (1970). Meanwhile, USC trained writer and director Stephanie Rothman — who previously served in both capacities on The Student Nurses for Corman — was disappointed on how Corman handled the movie, as well as its box-office reception. (This from the guy who rips off Star Wars by way of The Magnificent Seven — and recycles Battle Beyond the Stars over and over again in (the even worse) Space Raiders and Forbidden World, but in the cooler Galaxy of Terror.)
In an interview, “Feminism, Fantasy and Violence: An Interview with Stephanie Rothman,” in the Journal of Popular Film & Television, Rothman spoke of the film: “It’s not a traditional horror film nor a hard-core exploitation movie. In some places it was booked into art theatres. In others it had [a] one week saturation release in drive-ins and hard-top theatres. There was no consistent distribution pattern for it because people responded differently to it and I think that may be part of the [film’s failure].
Stephanie, screw Roger. We friggin’ love this movie!
I love how The Velvet Vampire starts: We have the eyeball-melting Celeste Yarnall (my heart is weeping, again; sigh, Celeste) walking alone across a city-at-sleep: she’s decked out in a mod-red dress. And a ubiquitous biker tough (the always-welcomed character awesomeness of Robert Tessier in an early, pre-The Longest Yard roll) tries to mug-rape her. (Yeah, right, Robert, that’ll work.) Next thing you know: Diane LeFanu (know your Sheridan LeFanu and “Carmilla” from In a Glass Darkly) causally washes her hands in a park fountain.
Then Mr. LaFanu heads on over to an art gallery (run by Gene Shane as Carl Stoker; who’s part of the plot twist) filled with erotic wares — as real-life blues artist Johnny Shines preforms his song, “Evil-Hearted Woman.”
All this in the first five minutes? I’m hooked.
We haven’t even gotten to the dune buggy-innuendos. Or the (simply stunning) phantasmal, desert-surrealism scenes. Or the woman-on-woman sucking-snake-venom-out-the-leg (thigh, but no triangle-of-death shot) scene. Or the hints of cannibalism and necrophilia. Or the subtle, implied lesbianism.
So . . . our vamp, the divine Ms. LaFanu, picks up Lee Ritter (Eric Stolz-lookalike Michael Blodgett from Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and Disco Fever), a sex-swingin’ married guy at the gallery and invites him and his put-upon (very hot blonde) hippy wife, Susan (more heart-weeping for Sherry Miles-DeBoer of The Phynx), to her secluded desert estate — conveniently located near an abandoned mine and an old graveyard (filled with the long, mysteriously-dead miners). Sharon’s attended to by her slave: Juan (Jerry Daniels; some U.S. TV, but Lee Majors’s The Norseman).
What raises Stephanie Rothman’s vamp-fest above most of the cliche vampress romps of the ’70s — and puts it, for me, on level with my beloved Hammer’s “Carnstein trilogy,” as well as the great Count Yorga and greater Lemora, Lady Dracula — is that Rothman eschews the conventions of yore: Ms. LaFanu lives in the desert and embraces the sun, she’s a voyeur (as the couple has sex), has a reflection, sucks down raw chicken livers, and jumps into her hubby’s grave and pines for him as she cries on top of his pine box. And she may not even be a vampire: just a psycho with a blood fetish/illness. And, unlike those Hammer-Euro vamp-babes of old: she’s bisexual and blood is blood, after all.
What the frack, Rog? I have no idea what you didn’t like, here, desert brass beds and the sexuality of snakes, be damned.
Oh, this friggin’ epic movie!
Rothman does a wonderful job symbolism-editing Ms. Ritter’s desert snake bite moment with Ms. LaFanu sinking her fangs into Mr. Rothman. Meanwhile, Rothman’s cinematographer, Daniel Lacambre, really knows how to work a lens under the baking sun, inside mine shafts, and empty mansions — and the later L.A. train station chase. The love scenes between Yarnall and Blodgett couldn’t be more artful, tasteful, and exotically shot — without degrading into Russ Meyer-removed sleaze. (Which is probably why Corman hated it: too arty and not “exploitative” enough. Whatever, Rog. Don’t you have some unimaginative stock footage to recycle?) Again, the desert-surrealism of the Ritters in bed in the middle of the desert wasteland: don’t tell me Don Coscarelli wasn’t inspired by Rothman’s frames. That’d be like saying Sam Raimi wasn’t inspired, i.e., ripped off, Equinox to make Evil Dead.
Critics, both pro (Frack you, Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times) and just-run-of-the-mill codgers, slag the acting — especially Blodgett’s. Granted, no one, besides Celeste Yarnall, is jumpin’ on the A-List (well, maybe so; Yarnall retired for a spell from acting after working with Burt Lancaster in ’73’s Scorpio; but did a LOT of U.S. television, prior), but everyone’s thespin’ fine. And I distinctly remember — because I had a mad-as-hell boy-crush on her — Sherry Miles in reruns of The Beverly Hillbillies, Adam-12, The Partridge Family, and Police Woman. You don’t book all of those jobs by not being good at your job. (I was supposed to be married to Sherry by now — and playing second guitar for the Monkees. Sigh, childhood dreams.)
And that’s what this not-really-a-lesbian-vamp-flick is: a dream. I love this movie . . . and a bag o’ chips. Thank god Corman didn’t wrestle it away from Stephanie Rothman to add more boobs and lesbian-love to screw up a perfect horror film.
Yes. Perfect. Don’t debate me on this point.
You can free-with-ads stream The Velvet Vampire on Tubi TV. There’s also a non-commercial rip on Daily Motion. As you can see from the trailer, you can purchase the restored DVD from Scream Factory, as well as other imprints.
Stephanie, Sherry, and Gene, Oh, My!
Did you know Sherry booked — then lost — the role of Bobbie in Mike Nichols’s Carnal Knowledge to Ann-Margret (Viva Las Vegas). So, yeah, Sherry thespian-rocked it. No worries, though. Sherry ended up in Your Three Minutes Are Up with Beau Bridges, Harrad Summer for Steven Hilliard Stern (This Park Is Mine), and The Pack with Joe Don Baker for Robert Clouse (The Ultimate Warrior), great films, all.
If you’re keeping track, and a Stephanie Rothman completist: She also wrote and directed Blood Bath (1966), It’s a Bikini World (1967), something called Group Marriage (1973) (which we never heard of), the Escape from New York precursor, Terminal Island (1974) (which we’re absolutely convinced John Carpenter ripped; inspired by Watergate, my ass, John), and the soft-sexer The Working Girls (1974).
Stephanie also wrote our much-loved Patrick Wayne-Sid Haig adventure-cheapy Beyond Atlantis (1973), and the late-’70s T&A’er (see William Sachs’s Van Nuys Blvd. for the breakdown on that genre) Starhops (1978). Oh, and before Corman gave her the reins, between ’65 and ’66, she served as a producer on Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet, Beach Ball, and Queen of Blood. You’ll also see her production-credited on Corman’s Gas! Or It Became Necessary to Destroy the World in Order to Save It. Be sure to check our the extensive Wikipedia page dedicated to Stephanie’s life and insights; it’s a story of hard luck and bad knocks. She deserved so — as you’ll see from The Velvet Vampire — much more. What a movie!
Speaking of Wikipedia: Yes, there will be an all-new Wikipedia page created for Gene Shane — as well as Peter Carpenter. That’s Mike Perkins-money-in-the-bank . . . and a bag o’ chips.
But, uh . . . have we been Shane-duped?
There’s also an actor known as Gene Otis Shayne, often credited Gene Otis Shane or Gene O’Shane (1936 – 2017). An Al Adamson stock player, he made his feature film debut in Uncle Al’s own vamp-romp (woefully inferior to The Velvet Vampire), Blood of Dracula’s Castle (1969), and a biker-romp, Hell’s Bloody Devils (1970).
I never gave it much thought, until now. Outside of the brown vs. blue eyes, they look like the same guy, to me. The plot thickens . . . but I’ll leave this in Mike Perkins’s capable hands. I am still coming down from blowing my brain cells with three back-to-back Robert Rundle** film reviews (long story). I can’t handle the information download of Gene Shane-Duece Berry-Gene Otis Shayne-Gene Otis Shane-Gene O’Shane as being the same person, not after the tales of Rundle.
We’ll keep you posted on . . . The Case of the Two Gene Shanes. (Dah-da-dun!)