Exploring: Neil Merryweather on Film

Neil Merryweather, left, James Newton Howard, right, with the Space Rangers/Neil Merryweather Facebook.

Canadian rock singer, bass player and songwriter Neil Merryweather, born on December 27, 1945, recorded and performed with musicians including Steve Miller, Dave Mason, Lita Ford, Billy Joel, and Rick James.

He passed away on March 29, 2021, in Las Vegas, Nevada, after a short battle with cancer.


Neil Merryweather, influenced by David Bowie with his Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars project, achieved his low-selling, yet critically acclaimed creative peak of seventies excess with two heavy-psych space-rock albums from his Space Rangers project, released in 1974 and 1975.

Devotees of early-seventies glam-rock and proto-metal obscurities may note the similarities in artwork and sound on the Space Rangers to that of the later, John Entwistle-fronted rock opera of the Flash Fearless vs. the Zorg Women (October 1975) project featuring Detroiter Alice Cooper; the album itself inspired by Bowie’s Ziggy persona.

A Canadian singer and bassist, Neil Merryweather got his professional start with the Just Us, which released 1965’s “I Don’t Love You b/w I Can Tell” on Quality Records (the label had a major Canadian and U.S. chart hit with “Shakin’ All Over” from the Guess Who). Merryweather eventually joined Rick James (later known for his 1981 disco-funk smash, “Superfreak”) in the Mynah Birds (which featured Neil Young and Bruce Palmer, who had already left for Buffalo Springfield) and recorded the August 1967 single, “It’s My Time,” at Detroit’s Motown Studios. Upon the departure of Rick James, Merryweather kept the Mynah Birds active with fellow Canadian Bruce Cockburn (later known to U.S. radio and video audiences for the singles “Wondering Where the Lions Are” from 1980 and 1984’s “If I Had a Rocket Launcher”; Neil and Cockburn also played together in Flying Circus).

Neil’s bandmate in Mama Lion — and its harder-edge version, known as Heavy Cruiser, sans Lynn Carey — keyboardist James Newton Howard, became a go-to Hollywood soundtrack producer. You’re heard his work since the early ’80s — most notably with Wyatt Earp, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, I Am Legend, and Red Sparrow.

Merryweather then established Mama Lion with lead vocalist Lynn Carey and signed with Ripp’s Family Productions (also the home to Billy Joel). After issuing two Janis Joplin-inspired, psychedelic-blues n’ soul efforts with Preserve Wildlife and Give It Everything I’ve Got (both 1972), Mama Lion — sans Carey — became the harder, blues-rocking Heavy Cruiser. Their critically acclaimed, two album stint with Heavy Cruiser and Lucky Dog (1972) attracted the attention of a more industry-reputable managerial suitor, Shep Gordon (he also attempted to sign Iggy Pop; he lost to Danny Sugerman). Gordon wanted to sign and book Heavy Cruiser as Alice Cooper’s opening act. Sadly, Artie Ripp and Shep Gordon didn’t get along, and the Gordon-Cooper deal soured. Along the way, Merryweather was offered — and turned down — the bassist spot in Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

After assisting Billy Joel in the studio on an early demo of “Piano Man,” which led to Joel signing with Columbia Records, Merryweather devised the glam-inspired, proto-metal Space Rangers project around the then high-tech Chamberlin keyboard, also electronically augmenting the band with a then-groundbreaking use of Octivators and Echoplexes. Initially recording with Capitol, Merryweather issued Space Rangers (1974), then Kryptonite (1975), on Mercury.

Billy Joel, with Neil Merryweather and Heavy Cruiser (Rhys Clark and Alan Hurtz) jamming on “Heart of Gold.”

After losing Iggy Pop and Merryweather, Gordon signed Detroit guitarist Dick Wagner, formerly of the Frost, with his new endeavor, Ursa Major, which featured Billy Joel in its embryonic stages.

Ursa Major became Cooper’s opening act and Wagner wrote “Only Women Bleed.”

Tim McGovern, the drummer in Mama Lion and the Space Rangers, would find success as a guitarist. Starting with the L.A new-wave band the Pop, and then with the Motels, McGovern found MTV success with “Belly of the Whale,” as the frontman for the Burning Sensations. They placed their cover of Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers’ “Pablo Picasso” on the punk-influenced soundtrack for 1984’s Repo Man.

Merryweather, sensing the changing times, adopted a pop-rock, new-wave sound with Eyes, a Holland-based band featuring ex-members of the Nina Hagen Band* and Herman Brood’s Wild Romance*, which released Radical Genes on RCA Records. However, Merryweather returned to his heavy-metal roots — inventively streamlining and glamming the “old sound” for a wider, commercial appeal — as the manager, bassist, and chief songwriter for the solo career of ex-Runaway Lita Ford on her progenitive hair-metal debut, Out for Blood.

Leaving the industry after the Ford project, but not leaving his creative side behind, Merryweather forged a career as an award-winning painter, sculpture, and photographer and worked in the creative department for the City of Los Angeles Department of Public Works. As the calendar flipped to the 21st century, Merryweather returned to the music business, composing music for teen-oriented television shows and, with ex-Space Rangers Mike Willis and Jamie Herndon, made plans to enter the studio for a new, third Space Rangers album. His other music projects — formed with ex-Space Ranger Jamie Herndon and ex-Lita Ford drummer Dusty Watson were known as Hundred Watt Head and The La La Land Blues Band.

His last project, prior to his passing, was a third album with Janne Stark, formerly the guitarist with Swedish New Wave of British Heavy Metal upstarts Overdrive, which released the classic hard rock albums Metal Attack (1983) and Swords And Axes (1984). You can learn more about the Merryweather Stark band — and their albums Carved in Rock (2018) and Rock Solid (2020) — at their official Facebook page. You may leave condolences at Neil Merryweather’s personal Facebook page, which will continued to be managed by his survivors.

Neill completing one of his many artworks/courtesy of Neil Merryweather Facebook.

And, with that, let’s roll the films — and TV series — of Neil Merryweather!


The Seven Minutes (1971)

Leave it to Russ Meyer — of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls fame — to be the only filmmaker to realize the soundtrack potential of the musical scope that is Neil Merryweather. And the potential behind the well-researched, sexually-charged novels of screenwriter Irving Wallace (his early ’60s books, published by Simon & Schuster — The Chapman Report, The Prize, The Man, and 1976’s The R Document — were all adapted, as was The Seven Minutes, by others).

While Russ Meyer’s name immediately says “sex,” the film carries a deeper meaning on the effects of pornography and its relationship to issues regarding freedom of speech: it’s also a meta-movie: about a book, The Seven Minutes, purported as the “most obscene piece of pornography ever written.” A district attorney on the political fast track for a senatorial seat uses the book’s erotic infamy to indict a college student for a brutal rape and murder, as well as the book store owner who sold the book to the student.

Typical of a Meyer film, while it lacks his usual “tits and ass” (demanded by the studio), the casting is B&S About Movies-crazed: In addition to Meyer’s wife and 20th Century Fox Studios’ contract player Edy Williams, the cast features Yvonne De Carlo, John Carradine (the last decent film he was in), the always-welcomed Charles Napier, a self-playing Wolfman Jack, and in another early role, Tom Selleck (Daughters of Satan).

As for Neil Merrryweather: “Midnight Tricks,” from his pre-Mama Lion joint album with Lynn Carey — Vacuum Cleaner (1971) by the concern Merryweather & Carey — appears in the film. (Neil’s works with Heavy Cruiser and Mama Lion were distributed by the Paramount Studios-imprint, Family Productions.)

The duo’s relationship with Meyer goes back to the smut-auteur recruiting Lynn Carey for the Stu Phillips-produced soundtrack to Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (Battlestar Galactica ’78 is one of his many); Lynn sings (“Find It” and “Once I Had You”) for that film’s character in the faux band, The Carrie Nations, along with Barbara “Sandi” Robison. While Lynn’s voice appears in the film, for legal reasons, she does not appear on the subsequent, original soundtrack album.

As a child actress, Lynn appeared in the ’60s series The Man from U.N.C.L.E and Lassie; in the early ’80s, she had a stint on the U.S. daytime drama, Days of Our Lives. She made her lone film appearances in Lord Love a Duck (1966; with Roddy McDowall) and How Sweet It Is! (1968; with James Gardner). Lynn’s attempt at moving into ’80s AOR (think ’80s glam-bent Heart) led to her songs appearing in I Married a Centerfold (1984), Challenge of a Lifetime (1985), Radioactive Dreams (1985) (“All Talk” appears in the film, but on the soundtrack), Hollywood Harry (1985), and Combat High (1986).

Lita Ford: Out for Blood (1983)

By the mid-70s, Neil resided in the Netherlands, where, through Chrysalis Records in London, he set up an imprint, Clear, in cooperation with the Dutch company, Dureco. While developing new acts out of Chrysalis’ studios in Miami and Los Angeles, he released his 12th album, his three-years later follow up to Kryponite (1975) by the Space Rangers, with the solo album, Differences (1978). He then formed the more timely, new-wave outfit Eyes, which released their lone album, Radical Genes.

Then, with new wave and punk on the downward stroke and glam metal on the rise: a new musical adventure called forth. . . .

You know the story: Lita Ford was a member of the Runaways (duBeat-e-o). Joan Jett was fed up with Cherrie Currie (The Rosebud Beach Hotel) as the frontwoman. Currie was tired of being pushed on back burner. Joan wanted to take the band in a punk vein (which she did: with members of the Clash and the Sex Pistols, which morphed into her solo debut, Bad Reputation). Lita wanted to take the band in a metal direction, which Joan hated.

So, Neil, as he did with Lynn Carey, first with the Vacuum Cleaner duo project, and their two albums with Mama Lion, found a new muse for his next musical direction: a creative detour that returned to his ’70s hard-rock roots first explored in the bands Heavy Cruiser and the Space Rangers.

As the mastermind behind a new, full-metal Lita, Neil served as her manager and producer (Billy Joel’s ex-Svengali, Artie Ripp, co-produced). In addition to playing bass — his career instrument of choice — Neil wrote four of the albums nine cuts: the album’s title cut song (posted above), “Ready, Willing and Able,” “Die for Me Only (Black Widow),” and “On the Run.” If you know Neil’s artistic side: he designed all of his own albums covers, costumes, and stage shows throughout his career: Out for Blood for blood was no exception: he constructed the chain-web, the cover, and the band’s outfits; he also designed the MTV video single.

Sadly, his partnership with Lita Ford was short-lived. The experience was such that Neil retired from the business to work as a graphic artist — his second biggest love — for government agencies in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. He went on to win numerous awards for his paintings and multi-media pieces.

Ash vs. Evil Dead (2016)

What can we say about this Equinox (1970) inspired franchise from Sam Raimi that hasn’t already been said? Well, we finally worked up the courage to say something about the film that started it all, Evil Dead (1981) — at least Sam “the Bossman” Pacino did — of the highly-influential “Midnight Movie” splatter fest.

As for the series, itself: we touched base with the Bruce Campbell-starring series as part of our “Lee Majors Week” tribute blowout — as Lee appeared as Brock Williams, Ash’s pop, in the second and third seasons of Starz’s Ash vs. Evil Dead.

As for the Neil Merryweather connection: “Star Rider,” from the Space Rangers’ 1975 second and final album, Kyrponite, appears in “Home”; the first episode of the series’ second season, it served as the introduction to Lee’s character.


So, wraps up our exploration of Neil’s all-too-brief connection to film.

This feature’s intro-obituary originally appeared in the Medium pages of R.D. Francis: “Neil Merryweather: Rock’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Space Ranger, Dies.” Portions also appeared in the article “Other Musical Phantoms: Neil Merryweather and Jim Gustafson. Who? (Then You Don’t Know William Kyle Eidson II or Lori Lieberman, Either).”

You can discover and listen to Neil’s catalog on his official You Tube page. There are also numerous uploads of his albums by his many, worldwide fans.


We previously explored the soundtrack work of the late Eddie Van Halen — as well as his lone acting gig — with our “Exploring: Eddie Van Halen” on Film” feature.
To learn more about another obscure, musical “phantom” of the ’70s, be sure to visit with the article: “Arthur Pendragon: Jim Morrison’s Doppelganger.”

* We reviewed Nina Hagen and Herman Brood’s dual-acting roles in the film Cha-Cha (1979).

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 publish music reviews and short stories on Medium.

Splitz (1982)

We wish this movie was about sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll . . . but two out of three ain’t bad.”
— Wishing thinking from the Film Ventures International marketing department, because they don’t have the other “two,” either


My eyes widened with glee. My irises twinkled. I discovered VHS gold; for there sat two dusty copies of the elusive rock ‘n’ roll and radio flicks I long pined for my collection: Splitz and Zoo Radio. It’s amazing, in those youthful, analog years, how elated my crappy life could become by the mere spending of $4.00.

Then I injected the tapes into my VCR. And I wish I’d hit up the McDonald’s in the strip mall lot and got a Big Mac.

Instead of those VHS rock ditties that lent themselves to multiple viewings, such as The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Cannon’s whacked rock fable, The Apple, and Brian De Palma’s Phantom of the Paradise, I ended up with another musical-snoozorama, à la Playing for Keeps, Scenes from the Goldmine, Suffering Bastards, and It’s a Complex World. And just as Zoo Radio did not prove to be another FM, Splitz would not prove to be another Times Square. Remember how Allan Moyle’s Pump Up the Volume was pirate radio gold and Ferd Sebastian’s On the Air Live with Captain Midnight (1979) was a dented, tarnished pewter ale stein crusted in barnacles?

Welcome to the celluloid ship(shit)wreck that is Splitz. Remember that iconic, two word review of Spinal Tap’s 1980 album, Shark Sandwich, you known, their big “comeback album” and their first with Polymer and their first release after the death of drummer Peter “James” Bond? Remember: Shit Sandwich?

Yeah, it’s like that. Only we don’t get a cool song like “Sex Farm” in the bargain to help us swallow this celluloid defecate.

To assure us the full “split” effect, FVI gave us a sideways VHS sleeve/thanks again, Paul!

When your film has four screenwriters and nine producers, it’s a foregone conclusion that the movie is going to have problems. And looking at the credits and seeing the names of producers Kelly Van Horn (who also scripts) and Joan Van Horn (then credited as Joan Speigel Feinstein), we are dealing with a future husband and wife production team coming up with a script for a film that started out as Phi Beta Rockers. It’s an Animal House-cum-Porky’s* T&A rock ‘n’ roll romp about an all-female rock band coming to the aid of a down-and-out sorority house of the Delta House variety about to be shut down by the faux-Faber College of the film (but here it’s, yuk-yuk ha-ha, Hooter College). And like both of this film’s raison d’etre — which was promoted as a “female Animal House” — the final cut of Phi Beta Rockers carried an R-rating.

But when you’re in business with director-producer Domonic Paris’s New Empire Features, the shingle that gave us (in more ways than one) the suck fest (well, another shit sandwich) that is Dracula’s Last Rites, aka Last Rites (1980), and then signed on the dotted line with Film Ventures International (who we oft mention in the pages of B&S) as your distributor . . . well, your film is . . . it’s a foregone conclusion that your movie will suffer a PG-13 chop shop edit and be ye dubbed Splitz . . . for the sole purpose of having a cheerleader on the theatrical one-sheets and VHS sleeves doing, well, a split, because comedy is supposed to be a sexy n’ smutty double entendre.

After wowing us in Times Square, our beloved Robin Johnson deserved so much more from Tinselville, U.S.A. No wonder the ex-Sleez Sister left the business to become a helicopter traffic reporter for KFWB/Los Angeles.

As with Matt Dillon, a non-thespian who left an indelible impressions in his feature film debut with Over the Edge (1979), Robin Johnson — an engaging hybrid best described as Joan Jett meets Jo Polniaczek (actress Nancy McKeon’s character on NBC-TV’s The Facts of Life) — was plucked off the street by a member of RSO Records/Films (Robert Stigwood Organization) for the starring role of Nicky Marotta.

According to the Times Square backstory: Johnson signed with RSO (which oversaw the career of the Bee Gees, then stuck them in the bomb that was Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band — and killed Peter Frampton’s career in the process) with a promise the studio would develop more projects for her in which to star. When Times Square flopped at the box office (as well as its double-LP soundtrack on the charts) and RSO’s excitement for Johnson (both as an actress and singer) cooled, she was left scrambling to find to find work. She ended up in this, well, a career killer that even Robert Stigwood couldn’t cook up. (Can you see Robin Johnson, instead of Joan Jett, alongside Michael J. Fox in Light of Day? I can; Robin would have killed it.)

Here, Johnson is Gina Napoliani: just another street wise Italian girl with musical aptitude and leader of the new wave trio, Splitz, alon with Joan (Patti Lee; co-starred with a down-and-out Aldo Ray in something called Drug Runners before vanishing from the business) and Susie (Barbara Bingham; Terror at London Bridge and Friday the 13th Part VIII). Of course, since Gina is a sassy Neapolitan, her father must be a cliché mobster (Raymond Serra of too many TV series to mention, but the film Wolfen and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise). And the band’s manager must be a clichéd, well-intentioned ne’er-do-well with zero talent always on the make for the easy buck.

And to keep that Animal House vibe alive — but without the budget to afford John Vernon — be sure to hire Shirley Stoler from The Honeymoon Killers (1970) as your faux-Dean Wormer, aka Dean Hunta, here. And for the “comedy” of it all: whenever her name is spoken, ye shall hear the claps of thunder and the shall lights flicker in fear. And to thread together what those four screenwriters cooked up: be sure there’s lots of narration by the band’s manager, you know, so the viewers don’t get lost, which is a sure sign you’re at the Suckville Diner outside of Hoboken ordering a Shit Sandwich with a side of Tap Fries. (To her credit, while the movie stinks, Stoler’s very good in the role.)

Of course, Dean Hunta is evil, and has a little side hustle to make way for a sewage treatment plant to be built next to the campus (hey, that’s the plot from Playing For Keeps!). So ol’ Hunny pits the Sigma Phi (run by the Dean’s pet, Lois Scagliani; played by Forbes Riley, aka Francine Forbes, who made her debut in Splatter University and turned up later in Megiddo: The Omega Code 2) and the Delta Phi houses against the Phi Betas — with the fix being in, so the Phi Betas, aka the female Delta House slobs, lose.

And here’s when the ol’ “ensues” come in: A jiggle n’ skimpy shorts soccer match, ensues; a lingerie wrestling match, ensues; and a strip-basketball match, yes, ensues. Also along the way, Dean Hunta’s horny husband is a lecherous dentist who falls to sorority blackmail and our evil school mistress is hypnotized into being a stripper (Shirley Stoler is a robust woman, so, you know, a large woman stripping is, well, “funny,” we think). And then the trope-ridden mobsters show up. And Splitz get a record deal. And, also along the way, ’80s comedian Don Irrera mugs for the cameras as a trope-laden gangster (and makes it clear why he never got his own sitcom . . . and makes you wish Lord God of the Camera Mugging, Joe Piscopo, was here to do his Sinatra bit as a mobster-gag, or something). And, believe it or not, the filmmakers managed to shoot Splitz inside of the world famous CBGBs (and if only the Ramones showed up . . . or the Tuff Darts . . . or Blondie).

Okay, so much for the film. Now let’s crack open the soundtrack (trivia) to pump up the word count and achieve B&S About Movies editorial policy oneness.

The R-rated theatrical print has never been issued to VHS, but the subsequent PG-13 VHS version, which also played on cable TV via HBO and Cinemax, as well as USA’s Night Flight and Up All Night overnight-weekend programming blocks, found its way — surprisingly, considering the usual music licensing snafus that plague most soundtrack-laden ’80s comedies — to DVD in 2003 and 2014; that later Code Red version features an interview with director Domonic Paris.

Ack!

Don’t go trolling Discogs or the online marketplace copies of the film’s soundtrack, because there ain’t one to be had — which includes several songs that have never been commercially available in other formats beyond the film itself. While the film features new wave tunes by the never-heard-of-and-never-were Arlene Gold, Jana Jillo, and Sarah Larson, as well as the bands the Clonetones and American Patrol, the film also features the more established sound of Blondie (“Heart of Glass” and “One Way or Another”), John Haitt (“Crash Your Party”), Rick Derringer (“Mistake Magnifique” and “When Love Attacks”), and a couple of old Del Shannon tunes (“Sue’s Gotta Be Mine” and “So Long Baby”).

Needless to say, the presence of Blondie’s music makes all of the faux-new wave caterwauling sound like the D-List cat screeches that they were destined to be; for not every ’80s comedy soundtrack can be as cool as The Last American Virgin and Valley Girl, which this ain’t — by a longshot . . . or split.

The woman behind Splitz.

Another artist credited in the frames of Splitz is French singer Diane Scanlon, who recorded for Polydor and RCA Records in Europe, and doubles as Splitz. Scanlon has since stated she was unaware — for over thirty years — that her 1980 demo recording of “Suburban Nights” appeared in the U.S.-made film. And she claims she did not sing the other song in the film credited to her, “We’re a Miracle.”

Meanwhile, behind the lens: It turns out Kelly Van Horn’s meager beginnings with Dominic Paris on Last Rites and Splitz lead to bigger and better pictures, such as the Crocodile Dundee and City Slickers franchises, as well as Independence Day, Eight Legged Freaks, and Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla and The Day After Tomorrow. Joan Van Horn also enjoyed a long career behind the cameras on the sets of TV’s Seinfeld and the long-running Castle, as well as several theatrical reboots of classic ’70s Disney films. And proving all actors have to start somewhere: Tom McCleister, who stars, here, in his acting debut as the neanderthal college dope Warwick, carved himself a nice TV career that lead to a recurring role as Ike, one of Al Bundy’s buddies on Married with Children, and as Kolos on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

And here is where the film trivia really goes weird: Ronnie Taylor, who serves as the cinematographer, here, won an Oscar for lensing Gandhi (1982) the same year Splitz was released. Taylor’s final two films, for you Dario Argento fans, were the maestro’s The Phantom of the Opera (1998) and Sleepless (2001), for whome he also shot Opera (1987). Oh, and Ronnie Taylor shot the Who’s Tommy (1975). No, really.

From an innocuous, ’80s T&A comedy to Dario Argento by the guy who lensed Tommy. Only in the digitized pages of B&S About Movies. Go figure.

You can stream Splitz for free on Tubi.

You can click on these links to listen to the songs from the film on You Tube.

The uploads of the songs by American Patrol, Jana Jillio, and Diane Scanlon are courtesy of Phota You Tube. Thank you for your efforts in preserving these lost artists and making for a better film review.

* We dive deep into all of those Animal House and Porky’s knockoffs with our “Exploring: ’80s Comedies” featurette. And we dive deeper into the snobs vs. slobs genre of ’80s comedies with our “Drive-In Friday: Snobs vs. Slobs” feature. We also explore the history of Film Ventures International with a “Drive-In Friday” featurette dedicated to their films.

If you need more fake rock bands, we discuss them in our “Ten Bands Made Up for Movies” featurette.

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

Summer Job (1989)

If you need to see another film starring Amy Lynn Baxter, the adult actress-model who posed for the inside cover of Howard Stern’s book Private Parts — who also turned up in the also Florida-shot Golfballs! . . . but lets not forget Karate Warrior 2 and Cyber Vengeance — then you’ve found your film. And if having that Penthouse Playmate isn’t enough incentive . . . if you wanted to know where Sherrie Rose, the star of Giannetto De Ross’s Cy Warrior, Sergio Martino’s American Rickshaw, the really fine Me & Will, and David A. Prior’s Relentless Justice, got her start, then you’ve found your movie.

Ugh, is this another trivia-cum-backstory heavy review with no plot information?

Nope. But there ain’t much of one to tell.

The “plot,” such as it is, concerns the usual gaggle of four dumb n’ hot college coeds out for a vacation of sexual discovery and a bit o’ Animal House-styled college revenge — in between their summer job duties at a Miami resort. Then things, as we say to wrap it up, ensues . . . such as pranks, laughs, humor that’s not too raunchy but a whole lot of groan-inducing by way of rim shot sex jokes about “crabs” and “polar bears,” people accidentally dyeing their whole body in blue, and out of shape lifeguards. The guys our nubile college quartet are teasing follow the usual ’80s comedy tropes of being a cowboy, a geek, a fat dude, and a buff jock, you know, the eclectic types who are only friends in the movies and never in real life.

And that’s pretty much it as far as the plot goes. It’s a movie about horny guys and horny girls that we stumbled upon by way of USA’s Up All Night weekend-overnight film blocks. So collect your empty soda and popcorn paraphernalia on your way out.

Now, onto the more interesting film soundtrack.

Yep. This movie was a pretty big deal in South Florida, back in the day.

So, how did two ex-ELO members — bassist Kelly Groucutt and violinist Mik Kaminski — become involved in an ’80s T&A comedy?

Well, Peter Kuys, who was Kelly Groucutt’s executive producer for his solo album, Kelly (1982), and the debut album, Beyond the Dream (1991), by his band OrKestra, served as the soundtrack consultant for Summer Job. Teen comedies were a hot commodity at the time, so Kuys seen it as a great way to promote the band, convincing Groucutt and company to provide six tracks from the album to the film (“Some Kind Of Magic,” “Bring On The Dancing Girls,” “Hold On To Love,” “Don’t Give Up,” “Don’t Turn Away,” and “Rock & Roll Fever”). The band also appears towards the end of the film as a band hired to play at a pool party (to promote the single “Some Kind of Magic”). A Croucutt solo tune, “Old Rock & Roller,” also appears in the film.

There’s more flicks with real life band cameos to discover in our “Ten Band Cameos in Movies” featurette.

A solo bound Jack Green — a Scottish musician who served as the bassist in classic rockers T.Rex and the Rolling Stones-related the Pretty Things — provides four more songs with “Sweet Lover,” “Win Your Love,” “Another Day, Another Dollar,” and “I Really Love Your Money,” which appear on his third RCA solo album, Mystique (1983). (Several of Green’s tunes also appears in the Lynn Redgrave-fronted low-budget comedy-horror, Midnight (1989), which also appeared on his forth album, Latest Game (1986). Members of Rainbow — with whom Green briefly toured as their bassist — guested on Green’s albums, most notably, Ritchie Blackmore.)

Keyboardist Ike Stubblefield, who also appears on the soundtrack with four songs, served as a Motown studio and touring keyboardist for their artist roster throughout the ’60s and ’70s, as well as touring and recording with Eric Clapton.

Okay, enough soundtrack trivia, let’s back to the movie.

Director Paul Madden made his feature film debut with the only other film of his we really care about, Medium Rare (1987), since it stars a pre-Rocky Burt Young . . . and Brad Dourif (!) . . . and Sy Richardson (!!). If you want a movie about pet poodles dying by microwave (it’s a comedy, after all!), then you found your movie. Writer Ralph Gaby Wilson gave us one more flick, again, the only one we care about since it’s a ’70s TV movie starring Yvette Mimieux, CBS-TV’s Outside Chance (1978).

You can watch the full movie on You Tube and enjoy the complete soundtrack on You Tube.

Oh, and fans of the old USA Network programming of the ’80s may want to pop on over to our “Drive-In Friday: USA’s Night Flight . . . Night!” featurette as we discuss the USA-ran films Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains, Liquid Sky, The Brain, and Kentucky Fried Movie. Fans of ’80s comedies may also want to surf on over to our “Exploring: ’80s Comedies” feature.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook.

The Beatles: Influence on Film

This is the final segment of our three-part series. We’ve discovered 33 films in the series, with 11 films each over the past three days — at 3 PM — as part of our third “Rock ‘n’ Roll Week” installment.

The films are listed by year of release.

“Rubber Soul Black & White” image courtesy of Veronica Kim-Pinterest (pinimg.com) via Esty/logo courtesy of 60s Girl Deviant Art/banner design by R.D Francis

Nowhere Boy (2009)

Imagine This: Growing Up With My Brother John Lennon by Lennon’s half-sister Julia Baird fuels this tale. Sam Taylor-Johnson — who earned a Golden Raspberry nod for Worst Director on her sophomore film, Fifty Shades of Grey (2015) — makes her directorial debut with this examination of John Lennon’s (an excellent Aaron Taylor-Johnson) adolescence, his relationships with his aunt Mimi Smith, and his mother Julia Lennon, and the creation of his first band, the Quarrymen, and its evolution into the Beatles.

Lennon Naked (2010)

After watching the early years of Lennon in Nowhere Boy, and one’s left wondering what the final year of Lennon’s life was like in the Beatles, this BBC-TV produced TV movie, which ended up on the U.S. pay cable network Showtime as a first-run movie, answers those questions. Christopher Eccleston as Lennon is excellent throughout, as this clips proves. Chilling.


George Harrison: Living in the Material World (2011)

Look, Hollywood is too busy mucking up the histories of Elton John, Freddie Mercury, and Nikki Sixx to give “The Quiet Beatle” a bioflick or Netflix mini-series proper. Besides, when Martin Scorsese takes a break from the mobster flicks to pay tribute to the life and times of George Harrison, you break editorial rules and include the documentary on the list.

This is buoyed by Paul and Ringo showing up, along with Harrison’s widow Olivia, and his son Dhani, as well as Tom Petty and Eric Clapton. Not only do we learn about George’s time with the Beatles; the seven-years-in-the-making film delves deeply into his solo career, including his work with the Concert for Bangladesh and the delightful Traveling Wilburys project.

Good Ol’ Freda (2013)

The subject matter here is such an out-of-left field twist in the history of Beatles flicks, we had to break editorial policy for a third time to mention this fascinating documentary on the life of Fredy Kelly: a fellow Liverpudlian hired by Brian Epstein as the Beatles’ Fan Club secretary. What makes this all work is the lack of sensationalism, courtesy of Kelly’s humble soul in respecting the privacies of her world-famous friends, but still telling us many things we did not know.

Danny Collins (2015)

In 1971, 21-year old Bristol, England, folk musician Steve Tilston released his critically acclaimed debut album, An Acoustic Confusion, and the 1972 sophomore follow up, Collection.

In a 1971 ZigZag magazine interview, Tilston admitted — inspired by the editor/writer’s accolades for Tilson’s work — that he feared wealth and fame might negatively affect his songwriting.

Inspired, John Lennon wrote to Tilston — in care of ZigZag — to offer the upcoming musician encouragement, “. . . Being rich doesn’t change your experience in the way you think,” Lennon wrote. It was signed, “Love, John and Yoko.” It turned out that, upon receipt of the letter, the magazine’s editor, believing Lennon’s letter “had value,” greedily kept the document; it was never turned over to Tilston.

How wicked the Fates: If the Lennon letter had been turned over to Tilston, would he and Lennon have forged a friendship? Would Lennon’s words have encouraged Tilston not to give up on the music business?

Tilston did not become aware of the letter’s existence until 2005, when a collector contacted him to verify the document’s authenticity. When the story was officially reported in the music trades in August 2010, it inspired this 2015 Al Pacino-starring film.

While the movie has it charms, and Pacino is endearing as a non-folkie, but poppy-ersatz Neil Diamond (check out the great original, “Hey, Baby Doll,” which was purposely crafted as a Diamond soundalike to “Sweet Caroline”), the excitement over a movie with such an obscure Beatles connection quickly fades due to us being treated to a film “based on Steve Tilston’s life” and not about Steve Tilston.

No, we don’t see Lennon or Yoko, either.

The Lennon Report (2016)

Pair this Beatles flick with either of the Mark David Chapman flicks to learn of the aftermath of Chapman’s motives. It purports to be the “true story” of the moments after John Lennon was shot. Lennon’s murder is seen through eyes of a young news producer poised to break the biggest story of the year, and the emergency room staff of Roosevelt Hospital realizing the true identity of their “John Doe,” and their race against time to save his life, all the while keeping his identity, private.

Eight Days a Week — The Touring Years (2017)

Okay, so we’re doing Ron Howard solid by mentioning his documentary because of his rock flick pedigree with the very cool NBC-TV movie Cotton Candy (1978). Howard explores the Beatles’ touring years and answers the questions as to why they stopped touring in 1966 to focus solely on recording in the studio. Its expertly assembled, as expected with a Ron Howard production, and well worth the watch, even for those who eschew documentaries of any subject.

Paul Is Dead (2018)

Paul McCartney didn’t die in a car crash, as commonly rumored, in this comedic “What If . . .” flick. And he wasn’t murdered by Billy Shears, either. Paul simply died from a drug overdose during an experimental, countryside musical retreat — the drugs were George’s — and replaced by the look-alike, local sheep herder, Billy Shears.

You can learn more about the film and free-stream it on the film’s official website, or watch it on Vimeo. There’s also two, wonderful fiction books that play with the myth of Billy Shears: The Memoirs of Billy Shears (2018) by Thomas E. Uharriet, and Billy Shears: The Secret History of the Beatles (2020) by Bruce “Doctor” Lev. Either book would make for a wonderful feature film.

Scrambled Eggs (2019)

Produced as part of the U.K.’s SKY Network’s Emmy Award-nominated series Urban Myths, the installments delve into fictionalized stories about the legends of the acting and music industries. Writer Simon Nye (who also wrote the Season 2/Episode 8 installment, “The Sex Pistols vs. Billy Grundy“) weaves this tale (Season 3/Episode 7) based on interviews Paul McCartney has given over the years about how he developed the melody to “Yesterday.” In comical twist: Paul is so dumbfounded that he came up such a mature melody, he drives everyone crazy over his paranoid that he “stole” the melody from another, popular song.

You can learn more about the Urban Myths series at Sky.com. You can also stream it on U.S shores via Showtime and Hulu. You can also stream the full 20-minute film on You Tube, and sample the with film with the highlight reel, below.

Yesterday (2019)

So, was it worth shelling $10 million dollars for the rights to the Beatles’ catalog in this Richard Curtis-penned romantic comedy (Love Actually and The Boat that Rocked) directed by Danny Boyle (Oscar-winner Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting)?

Yes. We said “romantic comedy.” Yes, by Richard Curtis, who gave us Bridget Jones movies and hooked up the likes of Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts in Notting Hill.

And “the Beatles” . . . well, an actor portraying John Lennon (John Lennon scene/You Tube) shows up. But he’s not the “John Lennon” we know: he lives a quite, non-musical life as an artist (at the age of 78) in a beach side cottage sipping tea. Why? Because we’re in an alternate timeline (caused by a bump on the noggin’ during a worldwide blackout) where the Beatles don’t exist . . . but struggling musician Jack Malik, does. And he records a worldwide smash, debut album comprised of Lennon-McCartney compositions, well Jack Malik compositions.

The Beatles: Get Back (2021)

Yeah, we know we said “no documentaries.” But after breaking policy for Martin Scorsese and Ron Howard with their high-quality theatrical documents, how can we pass up Lord Peter Jackson restoring and reediting Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s Let It Be (1970) for a reissue under its original work title. And, as it turns out, in Jackson’s cut, the Beatles were getting along better than we were lead to believe.

Seriously, which you would want: the Beatles getting the “Freddie Mercury” or “Elton John” treatment, or a Peter Jackson document on the Beatles?

If only George and John were here to experience it with Paul and Ringo.

Courtesy of 1000 Logos.

Thank you for joining us in our three part series on the influence of the Beatles on cinema.

Here’s the complete list of the films we reviewed in the series:

Part 1

Yellow Submarine (1968)
All this and World War II (1976)
All You Need is Cash (1978)
I Wanna Hold Your Hand (1978)
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978)
Birth of the Beatles (1979)
Beatlemania: The Movie (1981)
John and Yoko: A Love Story (1985)
Concrete Angels (1987)
The Hours and Times (1991)
Secrets (1992)

Part 2

Backbeat (1994)
That Thing You Do! (1995)
The Linda McCartney Story (2000)
Paul Is Dead (2000)
Two of Us (2000)
I Am Sam (2001)
The Rutles 2: Can’t Buy Me Lunch (2002)
Across the Universe (2007)
Chapter 27 (2007)
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007)
The Killing of John Lennon (2008)

Part 3

Nowhere Boy (2009)
Lennon Naked (2010)
George Harrison: Living in the Material World (2011)
Good Ol’ Freda (2013)
Danny Colllins (2015)
The Lennon Report (2016)
Eight Days a Week — The Touring Years (2017)
Paul Is Dead (2018)
Scrambled Eggs (2019)
Yesterday (2019)
The Beatles: Get Back (2021)

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

California Girls: The Motion Picture (1983)

Courtesy of Marian Green/Pinterest.

So, yeah . . . courtesy of all of the stock footage — and its resulting documentary feel — some are inclined to call this bee-boppin’ lesson in tedium a “mondo movie.”

Well, yeah, if “mondo boring” is a thing.

Any film that feels the need to suffix their film title with “The Motion Picture” — see Hamburger: The Motion Picture and Hot Dog: The Movie, as an examples — you know the film has an array of problems, and then some — obviously of the production variety, but, in the case of this movie, mostly of the legal variety. In fact, the only time the suffix worked was when Star Trek: The Motion Picture was released . . . and even then (with its bald alien chick V’ger non-sense). Bottom Line: “The Motion Picture” movies that feel the need to explain to us what it is, will suck ass steaks — studios and budgets of the mega and non variety, be damned. And California Girls sucks the peroxide right out of the bleach-bottle blonde hair shafts and the decals off the bumpers of the VW hippie-surfer bus.

Look, I get it. Every budding producer and aspiring writer and director has to start somewhere, but this inept radio comedy . . . just wow . . . and I thought Zoo Radio, (Young Hot ‘n Nasty) Teenage Cruisers, and On the Air Live with Captain Midnight (by the Rocktober Blood team) were inept radio comedies. Out of his 16 producer credits, eight of which he directed and four of which he wrote, you, more than likely — courtesy of its connection to all things Battlestar Galactica — known William Webb for one film: Party Line (1988), as result of your celluloid schadenfreude to see how far Richard Hatch had fallen and Leif Garrett (done a few for Webb’s production shingle) will desperately keep trying. Then again, if you’re a fan of Richard Roundtree chompin’ cigars and yelling from behind a desk, that was probably your incentive to watch that bit o’ sleaze noir.

As for California Girls: my incentive of plucking it off the home video shelf was result of its being set inside a radio station. However, if your celluloid schadenfreude runs analog waters deep — like whatever happened to Leigh McCloskey, Robbie Rist, Martin Landau, Robert Forester, Jeff Fahey, Yancy Butler, James Coburn, and Stephen Baldwin deep — perhaps you’ve seen Webb’s mid-’80s to mid-’90s direct-to-video potboilers Dirty Laundry, Delta Fever, The Banker, The Hit List, and Target. Maybe you’re a completist and need to see the past-their-heyday works of Zach Galligan, Catherine Mary Stewart, Michael Nouri, James Brolin, and Meg Foster, so you rented The Psychic and Back Stab.

Hey, at least Webb employs all of the actors we get jazzed about at B&S About Movies. That’s right: Jennifer Aniston and Melissa McCarthy fans need to just keep on surfin’, for there is nothing here for you to see.

And, there’s nothing here for YOU, the loyal B&S About Movies frequent surfer to see, either.

“Extra, Extra!” you’ve been warned.

Extra! Extra! Read all about our cinematic rip off!

But . . . if you want to revisit the glory years of late ’70s and early ’80s T&A drive-in flicks, you’re celluloid schadenfreude mileage, may vary. But hey, when a movie gives you full nude skydiving and topless mud wrestling scenes — that had to be cut by 3 1/2 minutes — for its subsequent video distribution, well, you just gotta pull out the Kleenex and the coco butter hand cream, and believe in the plot.

Well, there is no plot.

Eh, well, if you count the about 10 minutes of “Mad Man Jack,” an L.A disc jockey trapped in the booth of KRZY (they’re “crazy”), a decrepit L.A radio station with sagging ratings that decides to boost their numbers by finding “The Most Exciting California Girl” and award the winner with a $10,000 prize. And you thought the Zoo Radio gang at “94.5 FM KLST K-Lost” were a bunch of this ain’t Animal House or Porky’s losers*.

Wait, if the joint is a dump and the ratings are in the tank, where did they get the prize money? Oh, well, the “stunt” will perk up the potential advertisers’ ears (see the newspaper, above) and they’ll buy spots. Okay, the “mountain comes to Mohamed” approach is not how radio advertising and programming works, but, whatever.

You need more flicks set inside radio stations? Then check out our “Exploring: Radio Stations on Film” featurette.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the radio . . .

Three spandex-clad girls (one being 1976 Penthouse pet Lindsay Freeman; who also starred in the groundbreaking SOV’er Boardinghouse as the aka’d Alexandra Day, along with Mary McKinley, who is another one of our spandex babes, here) in a cramped apartment decide going fully nude while riding horses, roller skating, and skydiving should be exciting enough to win the prize. And yes, things go full frontal. But don’t go for popcorn during the skydiving stunt or you’ll miss the quickie “triangle of death” shots. (Again, this is the “nasty” 3 1/2-minutes excised from some video prints; the You Tube upload of the film, provided below, is the uncut version.)

And, with that, we spend the next 80-minutes of watching on-the-sly, Los Angeles travelog stock footage — backed by a hip, new wave soundtrack (yes, the music by the bands listed on the poster really appears in the movie) — of girls . . . rolling skating, wind surfing, doing karate, playing softball, navigating water slides, lifting weights, riding mechanical bulls, disco dancing, shopping on Rodeo Drive, pumping gas (and pressing their breasts into the windshield), mud wrestling, riding dolphins, soaking in hot tubs, competing in roller derby tournaments, and (it’s highly unlikely with the NFL authorization) ogling the L.A Rams cheerleader squad on the sidelines. Then our three ne’er-do-well chickies naked skydive-land on the radio station’s roof and net the prize. Then they all hop into Mad Man Jack’s ’65 Ford Mustang and head off to the beach (and he’s fat, hairy, giggling, and disgusting) to frolic in the waters.

Then end.

No. Seriously. That’s the movie. Pick up your empty soda and popcorn containers as you leave. And put away your coco butter.

If you’re looking for a movie with three-plus minutes of endless hang gliding to the tune of 10 CC’s “I’m Not in Love” . . . if you want three minutes of wet tee-shirt bikini boxing to the tune of Kool & the Gang’s “Ladies Night” . . . you’ve found your movie. That’s how this whole movies goes down: DJ mentions ladies “doing something” (e.g., racing dirt bikes) and it cues a song — that plays out in full (in the case of the dirt bikes, it’s Foreigner with “Urgent”), and so on.

Of course, that bit runs thin pretty quick, so Man Man Jack sends out his studio assistant to conduct “man on the street” interviews to ask listeners that burning question: “Who do you consider the most exciting girl?” Then we’re treated to an endless stream of . . . well, it looks like a bunch of down-and-out acting hopefuls auditioning, making clips for their actor’s reels. One even appears as ex-President Richard M. Nixon. And yes, it’s as awful as you think and you hope the hang gliding footage returns.

Now, if duping the NFL by shooting on-the-sly at a football game wasn’t enough . . . how in the world did William Webb afford the rights to the music of Blondie, Devo, the Go-Go’s, Foreigner, Kool & the Gang, Queen, the Pretenders, the Police, Sister Sledge, Rod Stewart, Donna Summer, and 10 CC?

Magic 8-Ball says, no way, Jose. Call the lawyers. And we say that because Rod Stewart is not credited on the theatrical one-sheets, the VHS sleeves, nor credited in the film. (Hot Rod’s song, “Passion,” does, however, legitimately appear in the Corinne Alphen-starring softcore anthology, New York Nights, aka Shackin’ Up (1984), for those of you needing film with A) a Rod Stewart tune, B) another Penthouse Playmate acting, C) Willem Dafoe making his acting debut, and D) a film to settle the bet that Marilyn Chambers doesn’t star in the movie, but in the 1994 softcore flick New York Nights with fellow softcore actresses Susan Napoli and Julia Parton, which Cinemax’d as Bedtime Stories.)**

Hey, at least the radio studio (uncredited in the film) is legit. Too bad the rest of the movie, is not.

And it’s not just B-Sides and studio leftovers, as is the case with most budgetary soundtracks on low-budget films. We are talking about the aforementioned bands’ major hits with the likes of “Heart of Glass” and “Rapture,” “Our Lips Are Sealed,” “Celebration” and “Ladies Night,” “Another Bites the Dust,” “Brass in Pocket,” “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da,” “Passion,” “All American Girls,” and “Hot Stuff.”

Hey, back in the day, before you easily accessed porn on the Internet, or were old enough to get behind the beaded curtain of your local video store, or were allowed to pick skin mags off the high racks, you had movies such as California Girls to sooth your tween savage beast.

Not that it helps in watching this mess: The real life Maggie Parker, who has her new wave concert broadcast on the air of KRZY (with the song “My Baby”), is better known as Maggie Mayall, the wife of British blues-rock legend John Mayall (know your Eric Clapton trivia). Their son, Jason, worked as a production assistant on the film.

The doppelganger caveat: Don’t confuse this long-form T&A rock video mess with the year-later released Tawny Kitaen comedy California Girls. As for this California Girls, this movie — and we use the term in the loosest form possible — must be seen to be believed. You can see it (for now, so watch it quick) on You Tube, because, with that soundtrack, this is surely to be pulled and it’s never coming out on a DVD or Blu — and least not in a non-grey variety. The VHS tapes are out there, and they ain’t cheap.

* Hey, don’t forget that we discuss Animal House and Porky’s — as well as all of their knockoffs — courtesy of our “Exploring: ’80s Comedies” featurette.

** Update: We since conversed with the film’s uploader and learned they overlaid the Rod Stewart song as result of copyright issues over Blondie preventing the upload. You fooled me, as the Stewart tune fits in perfectly. But still . . . how did this cheapjack flick afford all of those songs? So you still gotta call the lawyers . . . you know, the kinda lawyer that cops a table at Barney’s Beanery and uses the payphone on the corner as the “office” phone.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook.

The Beatles: Influence on Film

This is the second installment in our three-part series. We are discovering 33 films in the series, with 11 films each over the next three days — at 3 PM — as part of our third “Rock ‘n’ Roll Week” installment.

The films are listed by year of release.

“Rubber Soul” image with logo courtesy of 60s Girl Deviant Art/banner design by R.D Francis

Backbeat (1994)

Ian Softley (Hackers) makes his feature film writing and directing debut in this chronicle on the early days of the Beatles in Hamburg, Germany — the relationship between Stuart Sutcliffe (Stephen Dorff, S.F.W.), John Lennon (Ian Hart, again), and Sutcliffe’s German girlfriend Astrid Kirchherr (Sheryl Lee, U.S. TV’s Twin Peaks), in particular.

While the movie’s production values are stellar and the accents are spot-on (well done, Mr. Dorff) — and it’s based on interviews conducted by screenwriter Stephen Ward with Astrid Kirchherr — the real gem of the film is the Backbeat “alt-rock supergroup” on the soundtrack. The band is comprised of Dave Pirner of the Soul Asylum (as Paul McCartney), Greg Dulli of the Afghan Wigs (as John Lennon), along with Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth and Don Flemming of Gumball on guitars (Moore and Fleming also worked in a “supergroup” capacity on Velvet Goldmine), Mike Mills of R.E.M on bass, Nirvana’s Dave Grohl on drums. On lead vocals for Dorff’s Sutcliffe: Black Flag and the Rollins Band’s Henry Rollins.

Steven Dorff lip syncing Henry Rollins? Awesome.

That Thing You Do! (1995)

Okay, so the Beatles’ personas or music doesn’t show up (but they’re mentioned several times) in this writing and directing debut love letter to the Beatles and the Beatlemania-inspiring “one-hit wonder” craze of the 1960s. Our “Fab Four,” here, are Erie, Pennsylvania’s the Wonders — who shoot to the top of the charts with their ersatz-British Invasion rave-up, “That Thing You Do.” The film works its wonders (sorry) courtesy of its spot-on production design in conjunction with a brilliant soundtrack composed by bassist Adam Schlesinger of the alt-rock bands Fountains of Wayne (with their own “one hit wonder’ in 2003’s “Stacy’s Mom”) and Ivy (whose music appears in There’s Something About Mary; they also scored Shallow Hal). Mike Viola of Sony Records’ the Candy Butchers (later of Panic! at The Disco and Fall Out Boy) provides the vocals for the Wonders.

Sadly, we lost Adam Schlesinger on April 1, 2020, due to COVID compilations. Listen to this soundtrack — and anything from Fountains of Wayne — for great, goes-down-like-gumdrops tunes.

The Linda McCartney Story (2000)

Armand Mastroianni — yes, the one and the same who made his debut with the ’80s slasher He Knows You’re Alone (yep, the acting debut of Tom Hanks!) — directs this adaptation of the best-selling book Linda McCartney: The Biography that dispels of the Beatles — even Paul’s solo career — instead centering on Linda’s life with Paul.

The soundtrack, featuring the Beatles’ originals “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” and “Please Please Me,” along with the Beatles’ covers “Kansas City,” “Yeh Yeh,” and Willie Dixon’s “Back Door Man,” are interpreted by acclaimed Southern California-based Beatles tribute band, the Fab Four.

You can watch film on You Tube.

Paul Is Dead (2000)

The Google rabbit hole that opens for the “Paul Is Dead” legend is twisted and deep, so search with caution — or least do it on your day off, because you’ll be instantly hooked and surfin’ until sunset.

If you know your basic Beatles trivia: The band left “clues” in the 1968 John Lennon-composition “Glass Onion,” on the cover of Abbey Road, and in the backmasked grooves of “Revolution 9,” all which fueled the urban legend that Paul McCartney died on November 9, 1966, in car crash. To spare the public from grief, the Beatles replaced Paul with a lookalike, alternately known as William Campbell and the more widely accepted, Billy Shears. While the rumors got off and running in 1967, it really took off on Detroit radio stations in 1969 (which also birthed the “Jim Is Alive” urban legend in 1974 — and that Morrison recorded albums as “The Circuit Rider” and “The Phantom”), then spread via U.S. college newspapers.

In this German-shot/language film, Tobias, our young Beatles fan in an early 1980s German town, describes (in the scene, below) his conspiracy theory about how Paul McCartney died in the 1960s and was replaced his murderer.

The tale, while with its share of against-the-budget faux pas, is intelligently written and enjoyable, with imaginative plot twists: Paul is not only dead and replaced by Billy Shears, Shears murdered Paul; Shears — still alive — arrives in town driving a yellow, ’60s VW Beetle with the license plate “LMW 281F” — the car from the cover of Abbey Road.

While this impressive movie plays as a mystery-drama, the urban legend returns in a comedic take in 2018.

Two of Us (2000)

This Beatles “What If” comes courtesy of MTV’s softer sister station, VH-1, back in the days when the music channel produced original movies to a meandering-shrug effect. (However, their Def Leppard bioflick, Hysteria, is pretty good; Daydream Believers, their take on the Monkees, is also decent enough.) In this, the channel’s third film, the smart bet was placed on hiring Michael Lindsay-Hogg, the director of the Beatles’ chronicle Let It Be (1970). What makes this all work: Jared Harris and Aiden Quinn as Lennon and McCartney are excellent in their roles — especially Harris, the son of the great Richard Harris (Ravagers). No, we do not see them sing, well, lip sync, in the film.

As with 1978’s I Wanna Hold Your Hand using the Beatles’ 1964 New York television appearance, and 1987’s Concrete Angels using the Beatles historical folklore regarding their first Toronto concert appearance that same year, this time, the folklore concerns the mid-’70s public demand for a Beatles reunion show. One of those offers came from Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels on April 24, 1976, who made an on-air offer of $3,000.

The script is based on a 1980 interview with John Lennon in the pages of Playboy, in which Paul McCartney, then on the road with his Wings Over America tour (promoting 1975’s Venus and Mars and 1976’s Wings at the Speed of Sound), visited with John Lennon at the Dakota when Michaels made the offer. And they almost took up the offer. . . .

VH-1 was unable to obtain the rights to the Beatles’ catalog, so none of their songs appear in the film. And ghost of Let It Be is coming back a little later in another film.

I Am Sam (2001)

If you’re searching for a primer to help you swallow Across the Universe, the later-produced “film based on the Beatles’ songs,” and if All This and World War II wasn’t enough to send you reeling back to your VHS copies of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, this overwrought (Tell it, Sgt. Osiris!) saccharine hokum, is it.

Sean Penn performance (Tell it, Sgt. Osiris!) as a Beatles-obsessed, mentally-challenged man fighting for the custody of his bright, young daughter is not outweighed by the Beatles’s tunes expertly covered by alt-artists such as Nick Cave, Ben Folds (of the Ben Folds Five), Heather Nova, Paul Westerberg (of the Replacements), and Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder.

Writer-director Jessie Nelson, she, the force behind 1994’s incredible Corrina, Corrina (her daughter is Molly Gordon, of Booksmart), later produces a tale based on ’70s folk musician Steve Tilson almost meeting John Lennon. . . .

The Rutles 2: Can’t Buy Me Lunch (2002)

Is there such a thing as Rutlemania? Well, not in the U.S. where the 1978 original, All You Need Is Cash, bombed with the lowest ratings of any show on U.S. prime time television that week. However, in the U.K., the film’s intended audience, the mania led to Eric Idle and the Python troupe to embark on tours and recording full-lengths albums as their mock-Beatles.

As with Spinal Tap diluting the brilliant joke with an ABC-TV spoof concert special, The Return of Spinal Tap (1992), this Rutles sequel also dilutes the once brilliant gag — and it’s nothing more than a new edit of All You Need Is Cash, presented in the same chronological order, with a few new interviews, a couple faux celebrity insights (SNL’er Jimmy Fallon and Steve Martin show up; even Tom Hanks of That Thing You Do!), and a couple scenes cut from the first movie, as the Rutles embark on a reunion tour of America.

Across the Universe (2007)

As Robert Stigwood’s debacle based on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band wasn’t enough . . . and with Sean Penn’s Oscar-bait still wormed in your brain . . . we get another musical drama written “around the music” of the Beatles. As with the later “alternate universe” romp, Yesterday . . . the Beatles “don’t exist” in this film’s verse: a “jukebox musical” that features 33 Beatles songs to weave the tale of two lovers, Jude and Lucy.

While it had a tumultuous studio vs. creative post-production process over the film’s length (it was intended to be longer), the film none the less won over Paul McCartney, Yoko Ono, and George Harrison’s widow Olivia.

Still no word on what Ringo thinks.

Chapter 27 (2007)

Jared Leto gives a bravo performance as Lennon assassin Mark David Chapman in this adaptation of the best-seller Let Me Take You Down (1992). While the book pinches its title from the Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever,” the film’s title references J.D Salinger’s 1951 novel The Catcher in the Rye, which has 26 chapters — with the film’s title suggesting a “continuation” of the book, which was an obsessive favorite of Chapman’s. Another Lennon fan is portrayed by Lindsay Lohan — and she’s actually good, here, for you Lohan detractors.

Chapman’s psyche is also explored in 2006’s The Killing of John Lennon — but we didn’t see it U.S. theaters until after the release of Chapter 27.

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007)

“Spinal Tap” does not strike twice in this Judd Apatow-backed mockumentary concerning an ersatz-hybrid of Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan. The film barely cleared $20 million against is $35 million budget.

The Beatles appear in the form of Paul Rudd as John Lennon, Jack Black as Paul McCartney, Justin Long as George Harrison, and Jason Schwartzman as Ringo Starr. Sadly, their time is brief . . . and we wished the producers realized what they had, ditched John C. Reilly (an acquired taste that inspires more passes than watches), and just gave us a “What If” Beatles flick about the band moving on after the death of Paul McCartney . . . of which there is one. . . .

The Killing of John Lennon (2008)

While this was completed first, and released first in the U.K. and overseas markets in 2006, it was released in the U.S. in 2008 — after the 2007 release of the (much) better and better known, Chapter 27. Lennon, Harrison, McCartney, and Starr appear as themselves via 1960s archive news footage, but actors Richard Sherman and Tom J. Raider dually portray John Lennon against Jonas Ball’s Mark David Chapman.

Courtesy of 1000 Logos.

Join us tomorrow for our third installment with our final batch of films.

If you missed “Part 1,” you’ll find it, here.

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

A Bullet for Pretty Boy (1970)

Wow! This movie has it all! It’s an American International Pictures release! Cheapjack drive-in copycat Larry Buchanan! Beach flick purveyor Maury Dexter! Still livin’ the dream ex-’60s teen idol Fabian! And a connection to Jim Morrison?

Strap on the popcorn bucket!

In 1967, Warner Bros. hit a $70 million payday on a $2.5 million investment with the Warren Beatty-produced and Arthur Penn*-directed (1969’s Alice’s Restaurant and 1970’s Little Big Man) Bonnie and Clyde. The film not only instigated a slew of “(criminal) lovers on the run” films, such as the Martin Sheen-starring Badlands (1973) and the Peter Fonda-starring Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry (1974), it also set off the production of more traditional gangster films, such as Roger Corman’s The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (1967) — who never seen a hit film he couldn’t knockoff — and Dick Clark’s written and produced Killers Three (1968), a knockoff for — coincidentally, as was A Bullet for Pretty Boy — American International Pictures. Then there’s Roger Corman’s directed Bloody Mama (1970) starring Shelley Winters and a young Robert De Niro and, thanks to director Martin Scorsese (on his second film), Roger Corman’s superior Boxcar Bertha (1972) starring David Carradine and Barbara Hershey. As with Scorcese, another superior (but fictional-based on a late ’30 novel) gangster flick was the Robert Aldrich-produced and directed (but a box office flop) The Grissom Gang (1971).

Of course, the notorious career of this film’s subject, Charles Arthur “Pretty Boy” Floyd, was covered in the poverty-row production Pretty Boy Floyd (1960). You know that film’s German-American actor, John Ericson, for the sci-fi cheapy The Bamboo Saucer (1969), the early Charles Band-directed hicksploitation’er Crash! (1977), and Oklahoma-shot, poverty horror anthology House of the Dead (1978). And yes, Ericson, as most ’60s and ’70s B-Movie actors at the end of their careers, worked for Cirio H. Santiago (we love you, Uncle C!) in one of our beloved Philippine war romps, Final Mission (1984).

Now, we gave you that little bit of back story on the admittedly dashing — and a pretty decent thespian, natch — on John Ericson, in that, this time, Pretty Boy Floyd is now portrayed by . . . you guessed it, teen idol Fabian, who started using his last name, Forte, on his works. He was, certainly, looking for this “grown up” gangster romp as a role that would bury the teen-memories of his lightweight beach romp Ride the Wild Surf (1964) and the process-shot racing rallies of Fireball 500 (1966), Thunder Alley (1967), and The Wild Racers (1968). Oh, and let’s not forget Fabian’s work in the James Bond-cum-beach knockoff Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine and Mario Bava’s sequel, Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs (1966).

Then the reviews for A Bullet for Pretty Boy came in.

The New York Times accused Larry Buchanan of making “a murderous gangster movie full of mostly nice guys which looks a little as if they had taken the members of the cast of, say, Beach Blanket Bingo and put them in costume and given them old cars to drive and told them to play it for real.”

The Los Angeles Times opined the film was “surprisingly free from gratuitous gore, but was still another very pale carbon of Bonnie and Clyde, in which Fabian handles himself in competent fashion amidst a host of amateurs.”

The film did, however, prove to be a box office hit, grossing over a million dollars in drive-in receipts; however, even though he was called out for the quality of his thespian turn across the board by critics, the film was not the critical and commercial breakthrough Fabian had hoped.

At that point, Fabian diddled in some guest television roles of no consequence, eventually returning to the big screen alongside Karen Black in, ironically, another based-in-fact gangster film — for Crown International Pictures, no less — Little Laura and Big John (1973) — that film concerned with the 1910s and 1920s-era Ashley gang. (The only film directed by art director Luke Moberly, it was made in 1969 as a failed/shelved Bonnie and Clyde cash-in.) Then Fabian gave us the trashy one-two punch that we so cherish here at B&S About Movies: Soul Hustler (1973) and Jukebox, aka Disco Fever (1978) — again, two “grown up” films rejected by the mainstream box office hoards. Fabian’s career then wound down (but not to the Cirio H. Santiago depths, thank god) after his working in the ’80s slasher genre with Kiss Daddy Goodbye (1981) and a bit-support role in the rock comedy Get Crazy (1983). (Hey, how did we miss his work in the George Peppard-starring airline disaster flick Crisis in Mid-Air (1979) for our “Airline Disaster TV Movie Week” feature?)

In typical A.I.P fashion, the against-the-low-budget and bargain-basement talents (the acting, outside of Fabian, is pretty abysmal) behind the film, in front of and behind the cameras, made the production a troubled one. The studio, while fronting Larry Buchanan a $350,000 budget, the largest the writer-director every worked with — and Fabian ever worked on — the studio, well, mostly studio head James H. Nicholson, grew concerned Buchanan (who gave us the likes of Mistress of the Apes and “It’s Alive!”) would fail to bring the film on budget and schedule with “some level of quality.” So A.I.P replaced Buchanan with Maury Dexter — in his final directing effort. While Dexter and the studio were ultimately impressed with what Buchanan shot, it was considered “too slow and talky.” So Dexter took a small pick-up crew, along with stunt doubles and the lead actors, to shoot action sequences to splice into the film.

Shot and produced in five months betwen June to October 1969, Buchanan’s story was inspired by Woody Guthrie’s folk-tune “The Ballad of Pretty Boy Floyd,” while TV series scribe Henry Rosenbaum (1970’s pretty cool budgeted-horror The Dunwich Horror and the aforementioned Get Crazy) whipped the concept into shape. And yes, it’s the same Henry Rosenbaum who penned Sly Stallone’s Lock Up (1989).

Needless to say, if you’re tempted to stream a Larry Buchanan-with-Maury Dexter-on-the-assist gangster flick, just know you’re not getting a gritty gangster romp on the level of the superior, John Milus-directed Dillinger (1973) starring Warren Oates: you’re getting a Roger Corman-backed New World Pictures-exploiting ’30-era gangster romp in the vein of his Big Bad Mama (1974) and The Lady in Red, aka Guns, Sin and Bathtub Gin (1979). Actually, the proceedings are closer to Buchanan’s own — long forgotten and of no consequence — take on the Bonnie and Clyde legend with The Other Side of Bonnie and Clyde (1968), which is the reason why he got the green light on his Pretty Boy Floyd project, in the first place.

Buchanan’s gangster chronicle — like the recently (some quarters) critically derided bio-flicks Bohemian Rhapsody, The Dirt, and Hidden Figures — plays it very loose with the facts. And, instead of documenting Floyd for the violent criminal that he was, Buchanan transforms the bane of Bureau of Investigations’ (the BOI was the precursor to the FBI) agent Melvin Purvis as a romanticized, misunderstood product of the Great Depression (that swept across 1930s American) by casting Floyd as a Robin Hoodesque folk-hero for the people.

Sure, Floyd gained his “hero” (well, anti-hero) status for burning mortgage documents, which effectively wiped-out people from their debts (but is not based in fact and believed to be folklore myth), but Floyd was still, first and foremost, a bank robber — who not only robbed “evil” banks, but also terrorized citizens by robbing company payrolls and committing numerous highway robberies. In reality, the newspaper-reading public who considered Floyd a “folk hero” of the downtrodden, was a multiple murder behind the killings of two police officers, one federal agent, and two, rival hood-cum rum runners who crossed his path. Then there was the Kansas City Massacre of July 1933 that resulted in the death of four law enforcement officers (though Floyd’s involvement is disputed, in some authoritative circles).

Whatever, Larry.

Charles Arthur Floyd wasn’t a hero, anti or otherwise. He was a thug who struck fear and dread in people, aka a terrorist. His exploits were so feared, officially, in July 1934, the newly formed F.B.I ranked Floyd as “Public Enemy No. 1” — and yet, the citizens of Oklahoma and Texas still helped him evade capture.

As you can see, the tale of Floyd is heavy material. And you can see why Fabian lobbied for the role.

Of course, keeping in mind Roger Corman backed the gangster romps Bloody Mama (1970) and Boxcar Bertha (1972) — themselves recycling off the A.I.P prop house from The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (1967) — Buchanan easily pulled together a film that, while not fictionally accurate, is at least historically accurate in its set and costuming (we’ll forgive those few 1940’s model cars). And, if you know Larry Buchanan’s filmography, a resume rife with one, cheesy science fiction, inept horror, and conspiracy flick after the another, this gangster flick is one of his better, if not the best, films on his resume — thanks, in part, to Maury Dexter injecting those action set pieces.

Of particular interest in the cast department, especially to uber fan Bill Van Ryn of the Groovy Doom and Drive-In Asylum collective: Fabian’s supporting cast of Annabelle Weenick, Camilla Carr, Hugh Feagin, and Gene Ross appeared in the films of the all-too-short resume of S.F Brownrigg, he of the films Don’t Look in the Basement (1973), Don’t Hang Up (1974), Scum of the Earth (1974), and Keep My Grave Open (1977). And, why yes, Brownrigg does connect back to Larry Buchanan: Brownrigg worked as an editor and sound engineer on Buchanan’s ’60s flicks The Naked Witch, High Yellow, and the sci-fi epics Zontar: The Thing from Venus and Attack of the Eye Creatures.

Oh, and lets not forget Fabian’s co-starring moll was Jocelyn Lane, an Elvis flick vet co-star in Tickle Me (1965). An admittedly smokin’ hot, but (very) marginal actress, who certainly hoped for more from the film, as did Fabian, left the business after the crushing reviews for A Bullet for Pretty Boy. Also look for Fabian’s criminal side kick portrayed by ’60s B-Movie leading man Adam Roake (who appeared in the aforementioned Dirty Marty, Crazy Larry), and character actor extraordinaire and Buchanan stock player Bill Thurman (‘Gator Bait, Creature from Black Lake). Those who look really hard will see Morgan Fairchild (The Initiation of Sarah, Shattered Illusions) in her uncredited, feature extra debut.

You can watch the full film on You Tube.

“Hey, wait a minute, R.D! What about the ‘Jim Morrison connection,’ you teased?”

Read on, ye reader!

The Soundtrack by Richard Bowen and the Source

An August 8, 1970, Billboard Magazine advertisement for the soundtrack that served as the debut album for The Source.
Record images courtesy of Discogs.com and 45 Cat.com/soundtrack embedded below.

American International Pictures started their recording branch, American International Records, distributed by MGM Records, on March 19, 1959. Early on, AIR’s catalog was mostly 45-rpm singles, with rock and roll selections from their horror films, most notably, The Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow (1959). Later, AIR’s catalog featured long-play soundtrack releases, such as A Bullet for Pretty Boy. A decade later, in 1969, AIR and another company, Together Records (also distributed by MGM Records), went into business together — and shared the (sometimes confusing) sequence of catalog numbers on their releases. One of the label’s coveted records is “(Oooh, I’m Scared of the) Horrors of the Black Museum” b/w “The Headless Ghost” by The Nightmares (1959). (The Nightmares were fronted by Jimmie Maddin, who also appeared and performs in The Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow with the tune, “Tongue Tied.” He also cut “Roadracers” for the 1959 film of the same name.)

The soundtrack for A Bullet for Pretty Boy was produced by Harley Hatcher. B-Movie fans of all things Roger Corman know Hatcher for his scoring, penning and singing songs for the biker and rock flicks The Glory Stompers (1967), Wild in the Streets (1967), and The Hard Ride (1971). His other contributions are the Peter Fonda biker classic The Wild Angels (1966), several songs to Satan’s Sadists (1969), and Fabian’s Christsploiter, Soul Hustler (1973). Hatcher, who also served as the singing voice of actor Christopher Jones’s rock star Max Frost in Wild in the Streets, went on to become a top executive at Curb Records**. (Angel, Angel, Down We Go, another of AIR’s film soundtracks (1969), served as an A-Side album showcase for actor-singer Jordon Christopher, formerly of The Wild Ones.*˟)

Richard Bowen and the Source

And that brings us to Richard Bowen, the lead vocalist of the L.A. band the Source, who serves as the “Jim Morrison connection” teased at the beginning of this film review.

Richard Bowen and the Source never released an official album through AIR; none of the label’s artists did. Their “debut album” was the A-Side of A Bullet for Pretty Boy, in which the B-Side features Harley Hatcher’s film score. Of the six songs by the Source produced by Hatcher, he wrote three: “”It’s Me I’m Running From,” “I’m Gonna Love You (‘Til I Die),” and “Got Nowhere to Go,” with the former paired for single release with “Gone Tomorrow” penned by Richard Bowen. Bowen wrote the remaining songs “Ruby Ruby” and “Ballad of Charles Arthur Floyd.” The Source, which also featured Danny Heald, Harold Finch, Jr., and Robert Gilly, also placed a song on the soundtrack for John G. Avildsen’s (Rocky, The Karate Kid) third film, Joe (1970), starring Peter Boyle (the single, image above, issued in 1971, was backed with the non-film track, “Hummingbird”). The vocals on that single are shared by later members Tim Garon and Robin Baker.

And we fast forward to the early ’80s.

Buchanan was fully committed to his faux-biographical drama format — mixed with his ubiquitous speculations and conspiracy theories — a format that dated to his “exposés” on the Kennedy assassination with The Trail of Lee Harvey Oswald (1964), the gangster chronicles The Other Side of Bonnie and Clyde and A Bullet for Pretty Boy, and the “romance” between billionaire Howard Hughes and actress Jean Harlow in Hughes and Harlow: Angels in Hell (1977). Buchanan twice explored the life of Marilyn Monroe with his same theories-vigor in Goodbye, Norma Jean (1976) and Goodnight, Sweet Marilyn (1989). Not even folklore dinosaurs were immune from the depths of Buchanan’s conspiracies: he made the speculative-drama The Loch Ness Horror (1982).

Beyond the Doors!

Then, with Jim Morrison mania sweeping the world in the wake of Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugerman’s runaway best seller — and the first biography on the Doors’ lead vocalist, No One Here Gets Out Alive (1980) — Buchanan concocted Down on Us. Finally seeing release in 1984, it wasn’t a Jim bio-flick as Oliver Stone’s later The Doors (1991) — it was a “What If” tale about the deaths behind Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, and Janis Joplin. Remembering the Morrisonesque qualities of Richard Bowen’s voice, Larry Buchanan brought Bowen on the project to be “Jim Morrison’s” vocals. So Bowen took an old 1970 tune, “Phantom in the Rain” (the image of the original 45-rpm single, seen above), that never appeared in an American International Pictures production, and retooled it as a faux-live cut for the film.

Upon the 1984 release of the Down on Us — and Bowen’s eerie Morrison qualities on the songs “Phantom in the Rain” and “Knock So Hard” (it’s unknown if the second song was an old ’70s song by the Source or a newly-penned tune for the film) — for a time, before the early-’90s rise of Internet, it was believed — amid assumptions it was Iggy Pop and the Doors, or an ad-hock group of Detroit musicians, or Capitol Records’ SRC with a new lead vocalist — that the infamous, post-death “Jim Morrison solo album” known as Phantom’s Divine Comedy: Part 1 (1974) was recorded by Richard Bowen and the Source.

Of course, when CEMA, Capitol’s digital reissues arm, released the first-ever compact disc version of the album in 1993 — and the truth, every so slowly and inaccurately, came out across blogs and music sharing sites — it was learned the faux Jim Morrison solo album was the lone release by Detroit musician Arthur Pendragon and his band, Walpurgis, a group managed by and recorded for Ed “Punch” Andrews’s Hideout Records and Palladium Productions that also oversaw the career of Bob Seger (Seger’s Gear Publishing published the album’s songs). (The 1974 studio version of Phantom’s Divine Comedy is also available on You Tube.)

Buffaloes, Grass Roots, and Eagles, Oh, My!

In addition to his catalog with American International Records, Richard Bowen penned the song “Trivial Sum” with Terry Furlong of the Grass Roots (the ’60s hits “Temptation Eyes” and “Midnight Confessions”) for the band, Blue Mountain Eagle.

Blue Mountain Eagle, hailing from Texas, was a quintet assembled in 1968 by Dewey Martin, who served as the original drummer in the Buffalo Springfield, and Randy Fuller, brother of the late Bobby Fuller of the Bobby Fuller Four (his brother Bobby, another celebrity murder mystery like TV’s Bob Crane and Iron Butterfly bassist Philip Taylor Kramer), to tour as “The New Buffalo Springfield.” When Stephen Stills and Neil Young took legal action to prevent Martin from using the “Buffalo Springfield” name, the band became Blue Mountain Eagle and recorded one album for Atco in 1970.

The group toured extensively, opening for Santana, Jimi Hendrix, Love, and Pink Floyd before their demise. Dewey Martin was eventually sacked; he formed Medicine Ball with Randy Fuller, while the rest of the band — Bob Jones, also formerly of Buffalo Springfield, along with David Johnson, formed Sweathog with the one-named sticksman Frosty from Lee Michaels (the early ’70s hit, “Do You Know What I Mean?”). Prior to the band’s formation, BME’s guitarist and vocalist, David Price, through his old Texas friend Micheal Nesmith, came to be Davy Jones’s stand-in on The Monkees TV series.

* We discussion the career of Arthur Penn’s son — and later, production partner on the Law & Order television franchise — in our review of the lost rock flick Rock ‘N’ Roll Hotel.

** You can learn more about the career of Harley Hatcher at his official website.

*˟ You can learn more about American International Records’ complete roster of releases at Both Sides Now Publications.

Oh, by the way . . . we are deep into our third “Rock ‘n’ Roll Week” blowout. Yes, we’ve done this twice before, and you can catch up with our “Rock ‘n’ Roll Week” Round-Ups 1 and 2 with their full listings of all the rock flicks we’ve watched.

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.

The Beatles: Influence on Film

This is the first in a three-part series. We are discovering 33 films in the series, with 11 films each over the next three days — at 3 PM — as part of our third “Rock ‘n’ Roll Week” installment.

Image courtesy of Parlophone/Town Square Media via Ultimate Classic Rock/logo courtesy of 60s Girl Deviant Art/banner design by R.D Francis

As we developed this third “Rock ‘n’ Roll Week” in February, the 52nd anniversary of the Beatles’ final live performance in 1969 — shot for Let It Be (1970) — passed on January 30.

As you can tell by this article’s title, this isn’t about the Beatles’ movies, such as A Hard Day’s Night or Help! or Magical Mystery Tour or Yellow Submarine (well . . .) or Let It Be or any of the wealth of theatrical, television, and direct-to-video documentaries on the band.

And we are passing on John Lennon in Richard Lester’s How I Won the War (1967) and his work with the “supergroup” the Dirty Mac in The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus (1968/1996), as well as Paul McCartney’s vanity piece, Give My Regards to Broad Street (1984).

And we are passing on chronicling the works of George Harrison’s Handmade Films, so nothing on Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979), The Long Good Friday (1980), and Time Bandits (1981), or his production of Shanghai Surprise (1986), in which he appeared and recorded five new songs.

And we are passing on Ringo Starr’s resume with Candy (1968), The Magic Christian (1969), and Blindman (1971), as well as his co-starring roles in That’ll Be the Day (1973) and Son of Dracula (1974), his work as the Pope in Lisztomania (1975), his starring role in Caveman (1981), his appearance as Larry the Dwarf in Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels (1971), and his work on Harry Nilsson’s animated film The Point! (1971). We’re also passing on Ringo’s appearances in Martin Scorsese’s The Last Waltz, his document on the 1976 farewell concert of the Band, and the Who’s The Kids Are Alright (1979). And how can we forget, Ringo (1978), Starr’s made-for-television adaptation of The Prince and the Pauper, and Princess Daisy (1983), with wife Barbara Bach. And Ringo’s appearance in Sextette (1978), and directing debut of the T.Rex concert document, Born to Boogie (1972).

This exploration is concerned with the speculative biographical flicks, the films using the legend of the “Fab Four” as plot fodder, and the historical sidebars to their careers — both as a band and solo artists.

The films are listed by their year of release.

Yellow Submarine (1968)

We each have our fond memories of this sort of . . . and it’s not . . . but it is . . . Beatles film. Sam the Bossman remembers watching it on UHF-TV as his dad and grandad fixed the furnace. Me? My sister still doesn’t let me live down my nightmares . . . of the Blue Meanies coming to get me. What did my parents know about LSD trips? It’s those loveable moptops from A Hard Day’s Night, after all . . . and it’s a cartoon. What’s the harm . . . and I am still scarred by it, for life.

Initial press reports stated that the Beatles themselves would provide their own character voices. But all was not well at Apple Corp. and the lads weren’t enthusiastic about working on a new motion picture to fulfill their three-picture deal with United Artists, having been dissatisfied with their second feature film, Help!.

So, the Beatles bailed on project, giving the over 200 artists — who crafted the film across 11 months — all the creative space they needed. John, Paul, George, and Ringo composed and performed the songs (a mere six that comprises 22 minutes of Side One; the other half was comprised of George Martin orchestral compositions). As actors, the “real” Beatles only participated in the film’s closing scene, while their animated doppelgangers were voiced by other actors.

Obscure Beatles cover song hokum: There’s been a LOT of covers of Beatles tunes over the years . . . but one of the coolest covers of “Yellow Submarine” was done by Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s More Fiends from their album, Toad Lickin’ (1990). Here’s the rub: The song, titled “Yellow Spades,” is actually a cover of Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades” backing Paul McCartney’s lyrics.

I wonder if Paul has ever heard it? Did Micheal?

Micheal Jackson sold Northern Songs, Ltd., the publisher of the Beatles’ catalog, in 1995; the More Fiends, it seems, escaped the Gloved One’s legal wrath. The same can not be said of New York’s SST recording artists Das Damen. On their Marshmellow Conspiracy EP (1988), they recorded “Song for Michael Jackson to $ell,” which was actually an uncredited cover of the Beatles’ “Magical Mystery Tour.” After discovering the unlicensed cover, Jackson’s lawyers assured the track was removed from future editions of the album.

Still, I wonder if Micheal would have unleashed the legal hounds of war on the More Fiends? “Yellow Spades” is still commercially available on Apple Music or Spotify. So, either no one cared or the legalese was settled.

And yes. There is a band called, Blue Meanies, a ska-core band from Illinois, U.S.A. that recorded several albums between 1988 to 2007 — with no illegal Beatles covers from Yellow Submarine.

All This and World War II (1976)

So, before the creation of the abyssal Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the sappy-hokey I Am Sam, and the not-much better Across the Universe — and before Robert Stigwood gave record executives a bad name by ravaging the Beatles — Russ Regan, president of both UNI Records and 20th Century Records, and vice-president of A&R at Motown, came up with the idea to document the horrors of war through newsreels. He wondered, “What if The Beatles provided the soundtrack?”

Uh-oh.

Instead of real Beatles tunes — and in a warm up for their later work with Robert Stigwood — the Bee Gees stand in for the Fab Four, initially contracted for the entire soundtrack. In the end, the Brothers Gibb recorded six songs; three ended up in the film: “Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight,” “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window” and “Sun King”; their versions of “Lovely Rita,” “Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds,” and “She’s Leaving Home” didn’t make the cut. Elton John, Ambrosia, Rod Stewart, and a host of other chart-topping musicians take care of the rest.

All You Need is Cash, aka The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash (1978)

Eric Idle and the Monty Python troop devised rock mockumentary of skits and gags chronicling the fictional tales of Dirk, Stig, Nasty, and Barry, aka the Rutles, a band whose career mimics the Beatles’. Airing as an NBC-TV special, the movie earned the lowest ratings of any show on U.S. prime time television that week.

Are the proceedings are better than that? Yes. On equal with Spinal Tap’s exploits? No. But it’s darn close.

The ersatz Beatles tunes were written by ex-Bonzo Dog Band (friends of the Beatles appearing in Magical Mystery Tour) member Neil Innes, who portrayed John Lennon to Eric Idle’s Paul McCartney. Ex-Beach Boys drummer Rick Fataar portrayed George Harrison; Lou Reed band member John Halsey (1972’s Transformer) parodied Ringo Starr.

Yes . . . as with Spinal Tap, there is a sequel.

I Wanna Hold Your Hand (1978)

Robert Zemeckis, later of the Back to the Future franchise and awards-sweeper Forrest Gump (and Used Cars is pretty fine, too), makes his feature film writing and directing debut with this examination of the hysteria of Beatlemania. It’s seen through the eyes of four teenagers (headed by Nancy Allen and the always-great Wendy Jo Sperber) as they try to meet the Beatles during their time in New York to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show on February 8, 1964.

The Beatles show up, as well as Brian Epstein, in archive footage, while William Malone cameos in an uncredited role as George Harrison. And yes, we are taking about the writer and director behind Creature. And we get a “Ringo” in the form of Eddie Deezen’s nicknamed Richard Klaus in the film, so all is well. The soundtrack features seventeen original recordings — covers and originals — by the Beatles.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978)

The Beatles’ cover tunes by the Bee Gees and Peter Frampton, as well as Aerosmith showing up for an “evil” rendition of “Come Together,” for this tale about Billy Shears and the “band” of the title, are quite good; it’s the celluloid wrapped around it that stigs, uh, stinks. Oh, the overwrought Frankie Howerd (as Mr. Mustard) and ham-fisted Steve Martin (murdering “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”), why?

It’s been 43 years since seeing this in a theater — and never on cable or tape, no way; for once was enough for me. For the memory . . . the horror . . . is still burned into my cerebrum. I need a Beatles lobotomy, Joey. Where’s the Pepperland-invading Blue Meanies to stop the Bee Gees when we need ’em?

Birth of the Beatles (1979)

Dick Clark (who also made Copacabana . . . based on the Barry Manilow song) hired ex-Beatles’ drummer Pete Best as a Technical Advisor and Richard Marquand (Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi) as his director to give us this take on the early history of the Beatles — then known as the Silver Beatles. The film is noted as the first biographical drama on the band, released nine years after the announced break-up of the Beatles themselves, and is the only Beatles biopic to be made while John Lennon was still alive. While it was released as a worldwide theatrical feature, this was issued as a TV movie on ABC-TV in the States.

Courtesy of a publishing loophole — unlike the later and similar early-days-of-the-Beatles Backbeat, which used songs the Beatles recorded as covers — the songs in Birth of the Beatles were written by the Beatles themselves, only interpreted by the Beatles tribute act, RAIN.

The “loophole” of using cover versions of Lennon-McCartney compositions, of course, backfired. As result, Birth of the Beatles has fallen out of print and will more-than-likely never be reissued to DVD or Blu-ray. But there’s a TV rip uploaded to You Tube.

Marquand, who made his made his debut directing Roger Daltry in The Legacy, also directed ’60s folkie Bob Dylan co-starring with ’80s pop singer Fiona (the 1985 Top 15 hit “Talk to Me”) in the pretty awful, Joe Esztherhas-penned flick, Hearts of Fire (1987).

Beatlemania: The Movie (1981)

A smash Broadway musical-rockumentary advertised as “Not the Beatles, but an incredible simulation” that ran for 1,006 performances from May 1977 to October 1979 is a sure bet for a theatrical film adaptation.

No, it’s not.

The show — a multimedia production consisting of backdrops and projected images of art and video footage from the Beatles-era, as well as numerous clips of the Beatles — consisted of 29, chronologically-played songs, complete with costume changes.

So — with a Broadway hit on their hands — the managerial impresarios behind the production, Steve Lever and David Krebs (known for their handling of the Rolling Stones, Joan Jett, and Aerosmith; remember “Boston’s Bad Boys” appeared in Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band), decided that — Apple Corps. lawsuits, be damned — it was time to take on the albums charts and the silver screen.

The original cast of Joe Pecorino (rhythm guitar, John), Mitch Weissman (bass guitar, Paul), Les Fradkin (lead guitar, George), and Justin McNeill (drums, Ringo), and the second cast of Randy Clark as John, Reed Kailing as Paul, P.M. Howard as George, and Bobby Taylor as Ringo, headed into the studio for a 1978 Arista The Album release — which bombed with record buyers as it scrapped into the lowest regions of the Billboard 200.

Seriously? Who wants to buy a Pickwick (Discogs) budget sound-alike of Beatles tunes?

Okay . . . well, maybe a movie would work, better.

Uh, no it won’t. Remember All This and World War II?

Production began in late 1980 — shortly before John Lennon’s December 8 murder — under the tutelage of TV director Joseph Manduke (Harry O, Hawaii Five-O, Barnaby Jones). The cast featured a mix of musicians from the Broadway production and album, with Mitch Weissman back a third time as Paul, David Leon as John, Tom Teeley as George, and Ralph Castelli as Ringo.

Released in the summer of 1981, Bealtlemania: The Movie quickly became a critical and box office bomb. Apple Corps, who launched their first legal volleys regarding publicity rights and trademarks in 1979, finally won in damages in 1986.

And Ringo hated the concept, in whole.

You can learn more on the making of Beatlemania (the Broadway show) with this Chicago news station-produced TV documentary on You Tube.

John and Yoko: A Love Story (1985)

This NBC-TV effort chronicles the relationship between John Lennon and Yoko Ono. The movie was made with the co-operation of Yoko Ono, who controlled the song rights. The film begins on August 19, 1966, in the wake of a protest initiated by Lennon’s (misunderstood) comment that the Beatles “were more popular than Jesus” and end with Lennon’s murder in 1980.

In a production twist: Actor Mark Lindsay booked the role of John Lennon. When Ono discovered that was his professional name — and that his birth name was Mark Lindsay Chapman — the similarity gave her “bad karma,” so he was recast with Mark McGann.

In 2007, Mark Lindsay was cast as an “older” Lennon in Chapter 27 (2007) — the tale of Lennon’s assassin, Mark David Chapman.

Concrete Angels (1987)

Robert Zemeckis scripted his Fab Four tale, I Wanna Hold Your Hand (1978), around the Beatle’s historic February 8, 1964, appearance on CBS-TV’s Ed Sullivan Show. In that tale, a group of friends schemed to meet the band.

This time, a quartet of ne’er-do-well teens from the wrong side of Toronto’s tracks form the Concrete Angels to enter a radio station’s battle of the bands contest and win the opening act slot for the Beatles’ gig. Will they win and escape their poverty or will they fall back into their juvenile acts of crime?

The Hours and Times (1991)

Christopher Munch makes his writing and directing debut with this fictionalized account of “what might have happened” during a real holiday taken by John Lennon and (the homosexual) Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein, in 1963. Ian Hart, who stars as John Lennon, portrays him one more time, in Backbeat. The film was restored for a 2019 DVD release.

Secrets, aka One Crazy Night (1992)

As with the previous Beatles-inspired films I Wanna Hold Your Hand (1978) and Concrete Angels (1987), this Australian production works as a coming-of-age drama — a retro ’80s John Hughes coming-age-drama — backed by Beatles folklore. Now, instead of trying to meet the Beatles at their first New York and Toronto concerts, we have five teens who sneak in, then find themselves trapped in the bowels of a Melbourne concert venue where the Beatles are set the make their June 11, 1964, Down Under debut. Saccharine soul bearing, ensues.

As with most Beatles films, you’re getting covers (most outside of the timeline of the movie) — this time from Dave Dobbyn, of New Zealand’s Th’ Dudes (their hit, “Bliss“) and DD Smash (the latter swept the New Zealand Music Awards in 1982 and 1983, but a Men at Work or Split Enz crossover to American wasn’t meant to be). The Judd Nelson/John Bender of the bunch comes in the form of an antithesis Elvis fan stuck in the ’50s. Another looks like Wolowitz from The Big Bang Theory — only with out the nose (because he’s obsessed with George, not Ringo), who always wears Fab-inspired suits.

Impossible to find on U.S. shores as a VHS or DVD on home video shelves, we found a copies on You Tube HERE and HERE. Sorry, no trailer. But here’s a DD Smash video (that never aired in the States on MTV).

Courtesy of 1000 Logos.

Join us tomorrow for our second installment with our next batch of films.

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

The Divine Enforcer (1992)

“Open the gates of Hell! For I am the right hand of God!”
— So speaks Father Daniel

Trust us: We aren’t plot spoiling when we tell you what we have here is a great idea of a Sylvester Stallone Cobra (1986) ripoff — with Sly as a catholic priest, instead of a toothpick-chewin’ rogue cop, after an ravenous serial killer — a vampire killer, no less.

Needless to say, this karate-horror hybrid isn’t as good as that Stallone pitch-premise. Ah, but we have the presence of a Ponch and Stringfellow and a Ron Marchini-lite karate-thespian as a priest raising a Jean-Claude Van Damme’in holy hell on a Z-movie budget.

Damn straight, I want to watch this. Load the friggin’ tape! LOAD THE TAPE! Man the drink blenders, Sam. Pull up a section of couch, Bill Van Ryn. This is gonna rock the VHS heads.

Prism. How many films from your shingle have I watched? Let me count the tapes. For the ends of spool and I shall not erase. Most quiet VCR, by remote and candle-light.

So, welcome to another never-heard-of-it-or-seen-it-before lost VHS’er that’s never been released on DVD or Blu-ray, which, unless it is reissued on either format and a freebie copy is provided to the reviewer — or the writer is paid to write the review — they/their website home, doesn’t review it. Now, true: We at B&S About Movies get our fair share of promotional DVDs and Blus, as well as box sets of reissued classics, as well as the newer 2021 fair, and we get plenty of promotional digital screeners from P.R firms. And we enjoying exposing those reissued and new films to audiences — but it’s the analog barnacles: the VHS ditties lost to the ages; the films never reissued to hard or streaming digital formats that’s our jam; the films no reissues studio shills for the greenbacks. (And that ain’t no cliched ensuing trope we’re spewing, there, my friend. Nor do we do conventional, simple summary of the plot reviews. Where’s the fun in that QWERTY’in trope? You gotta go gonzo, sans the green.)

Such a film is The Divine Enforcer — a film with more critic and user reviews than we anticipated. This is a known film?

Shockingly, yes.

So, unlike us Allegheny pugwackers splashin’ about the Three Rivers confluence, the more discriminating VHS’er have, in fact, watched this, well, let’s face it: poverty row junk, courtesy of its rusty ‘n crumbled, star-power sparkle of Jan-Michael Vincent, Robert Z’Dar, Erik Estrada, Don Stroud, and Judy Landers. So, yeah, basically, it’s a B&S About Movies all-star cast. Then, in support roles, we have the insane Scott Shaw (100 film and TV acting credits, with 153 as a producer — one of which is The Roller Blade Seven). And, do we really need to tell you about Micheal M. Foley from Ron Marchini’s Karate Cop, as well as Prison Planet and Cybernator? Well, we just did.

And that’s why we are here, today: Our review of Cyberator, in conjunction with our Ron Marchini two-day blowout, put The Divine Enforcer on our radar. So let’s sit back, together, as we enjoy this video-store renter for the first time — 29 years after its release.

Cybernator served as our debut introduction to the resume of writer-director Robert Rundle; that apoc’er served as his debut feature film. For his next movie, the movie we are reviewing today, in addition to securing the services of everyone above — yes, that is the Jim Brown, the blaxploitation extraordinaire in the cast — Rundle secured the scripting services of Randall Frakes of Hell Comes to Frogtown and Roller Blade Warriors fame — so there’s that B-Movie enticement. Then Rundle gave us Vampire Hunter (1994) with B-Movie screamer, Linnea Quigley, Run Like Hell (1995) with Robert “Maniac Cop” Z’Dar, and the return of William Smith (from Cybernator) in Raw Energy (1995). Sadly, Rundle hasn’t made a film since 2005 and, according to the IMDb, Rundle had a website, but it’s lost in the 404 error-verse.

So, if you haven’t already figured it out from the VHS cover: we are dealing with a religious-based thriller. A monsignor (Erik Estrada; most recently in Dead Over Diamonds) and his assistant, Father Thomas (Jan-Micheal Vincent, Alienator) — both in the ol’ sit-down-thespian-roles-for-a-paycheck — recruits a new priest, Father Daniel (Michael J. Foley), to their Los Angeles parish. The newcomer priest proceeds to turn vigilante (as Vincent did in the HBO-dumper pastiche of The Warriors and Death Wish in 1980’s Defiance) and takes on various thugs and criminals that rule the neighborhoods.

Of course, knowing Foley’s skill set as we do, Father Daniel (wow, where was Ron Marchini, he was made for this role) has mad martial arts skills — and he’s armed with a stockpile of crucifix tossing-blades and a Boondock Saints-style pistol with a cross on the handle — only that 1999 film wasn’t made yet.

So, amid Father Dan’s daily duties of cleaning up the city of drug-dealing scumbags (cue Jim Brown and Robert Z’Dar) and protecting his landlady (call Judy Landers to set), Father D. runs afoul of Otis (cue Don Stroud, hacking at the ham), who claims to be the bloodsucking — and beheading n’ skull-stealing — vampire terrorizing Los Angeles. Assisting Father Dan in the fight is, Kim (Carrie Chambers; made her debut in Karate Cop alongside Foley; also appears in Sleepaway Camp IV* and Bikini Carwash Company II) with her psychic link to Otis.

So yeah, this purely a Michael J. Foley and Carrie Chambers joint, with Estrada and Vincent washed-up and on-board doin’ the now de rigueur Eric Roberts (Lone Star Deception) walk on-to-sit down role, a mantel recently taken up by Nicolas Cage**. Ditto goes for Jim Brown and Robert Z’Dar in their blink-and-you’ll-miss ’em-put-a-name-on-the-box roles. Oh, and we get to see Asian singer Hiroko belt out her 1990 Enigma Records’ release, “My Love Is Waiting” (You Tube). Oh, and there’s lots of gratuitous boobs bouncing about the frames.

Yeah, it’s awful. Really awful.

And it’s also sad.

Jan-Micheal has his script taped inside a newspaper as he “reads” about the ongoing killings; Estrada, is well, Estrada, who wishes he didn’t cop an attitude during his CHiPs heyday and tank his career, and Don Stroud — a B&S About Movies hero — is out of shape, pasty, and saddening as he goes full-on Shakespeare (with a little tongue) to a boiled, bloody skull. But, again, we get Ponch and Stringfellow and a priest raising holy hell. So what’s not to likey here?

Not a damn thing.

You can roll it on You Tube — complete with original Prism VHS opening trailers, so this is truly a retro, home-video ride. However, if an hour and thirty minutes of a martial arts Catholic priest is too much too handle, the fine folks at Cine Arcadia Productions confessed their fandom for The Divine Enforcer by cutting out the fat and distilling the film down to — get this, 17 minutes — with this You Tube upload.

Me? I’m an analog masochist. I’m went for the Full Monty-hour and a half ride, baby! Which is why Sam the Bossman runs drink blenders. Toastin’ the livers is required with a flick such as The Divine Enforcer.

* Yeah, we know. Since we did the first three — Sleepaway Camp, Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers, Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland — we need to put part IV from 1992 — which we didn’t even know existed — on our review list.

** Did you check out our “Nic Cage Bitch” blowout? It has links to all of his films we’ve reviewed so far. Go head, click the link. Be Nic’s bitch.

About the Author: You can read the music and film criticisms of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook.

Catch Me If You Can (1989)

Well, as with the previously-reviewed-this-week Corey Feldman-fronted Round Trip to Heaven, this Down Under car flick is a doublesploitation whammy: we all know what makes a carsploitation movie . . . but what makes a teensploitation movie, now that’s the question.

Well, for me, it’s when your film has 30-year-old teenagers — in this case, our stars of Matt Lattanzi, Loryn Locklin, Grant Heslov, and Billy Morrissette (Severed Ties!), who were 30 and 21, 26, 27, respectively — and no matter the filmmaker’s intentions — you’ve made a teensplotation movie. Yes, even when your film is loaded with classic cars, hot-rods, and muscle cars and qualifies it as a carsploitation movie.

The filmmaker in this case . . . isn’t the usual, expected filmmaker. No, it’s not Albert Pyun. It’s not David DeCoteau. It’s not Fred Olen Ray.

It’s Stephens Sommers.

Yes. The same Stephen Sommers — in his writing and directing debut — known as the writer, director, and producer behind The Mummy, The Scorpion King, and G.I Joe franchises. Meanwhile, actor Grant Heslov became a producing partner with George Clooney and received four Oscar nods and one win (2012’s Argo).

As with the countless teen movies dating back to the ’50s, we have a gaggle of teens who — in addition to not being teenagers and are far more intelligent and resourceful than your typical, goofy teenagers (at least when I was in school) — work together in the ‘ol “Let’s save the teen center, gang!” plot of old. Only this time: it’s the ol’ “save the school” plot.

Of course, the school will be saved by resident “bad boy” Dylan (Matt Lattanzi of Xanadu and My Tutor) who sidelines between the reading, writing, and arithmetic as an illegal street racer. Dylan convinces the school’s resident goody two-shoes (Loryn Locklin, in her acting debut; her next was the inane Jim Belushi comedy Taking Care of Business) to bet the $3000 already raised on an illegal race he knows he can win — and turn that 3-grand into the needed 200-grand to save the school.

That’s right. He doesn’t win.

Explore the soundtracks of Tangerine Dream! Catch Me If You Can is one of their many scores.

Now, the adults — school board administrators, mind you — are sanctioning an illegal, winner-take-all road race, with Dylan against the town legend. You know, just like any school board would handle a funding crunch that’s closing a school.

Look, the proceedings are cliched and utterly unbelievable. The teens don’t behave like teens (as in my Bruno Kirby guilty pleasure with the high school politics comedy, 1978’s Almost Summer) and the adults don’t carry themselves as roll models (of which Almost Summer had none, well, except for the adult-as-teens actors). But we have M. Emmett Walsh (who runs the local gambling syndicate backing the races) and Geoffrey Lewis (our principal) as the “responsible” adults, Loryn Locklin looks great in saddle shoes, there’s no cheese in thespin’ department, the driving and stunts (an old Chevy jumps through the school’s football field goalposts in a highlight) are top notch, and the ’50s and ’60s tunes (Elvis, Del Shannon, the Platters, Danny and the Juniors; but Tangerine Dream scores) give this homage to Sommers’s old hometown days of growing up in St. Cloud, Minnesota (where this was shot), a nice retro-juvenile delinquency flick of the ’50s feel — which is the whole point of the movie. And a fun movie to watch.

Sure, even at a production budget at $800,000, this car flick still bombed in the U.S., but cleaned up in the overseas markets — especially in Australia — where it made $7 million, courtesy of Matt Lattanzi then being the first husband of singer-actress Olivia Newton John. Meanwhile, in the U.S., it was HBO and Cinemax to the rescue, turning it into a cult classic.

Oh, and by the way, don’t confuse Catch Me If You Can with the other Aussie car flick we’ve reviewed, Freedom, which stars Matt Lattazni lookalike Jon Blake. That’s a whole other, carsploitation movie (and carries the soundalike “grab it while you can” tagline on its one-sheets).

Need more car flicks? Check out two-part Fast and Furious tribute weeks!

We had this writing and directing debut by Stephen Sommers on our review backburners for quite a while (sorry, Steve) and never managed to fit it into our two “Fast and Furious” weeks of reviews (HERE and HERE) of, well, Carsploitation films. We’re also guilty of passing over Catch Me If You Can (again, sorry, Steve) as part of our “Exploring” tribute to the film soundtracks of Tangerine Dream. So, we do get them, eventually.

You can stream this really great car flick on Vudu without commercials. But we found a copy on You Tube. As you can read from the You Tube upload comments, everyone loves this movie. Why it didn’t click with theater audiences and turn Matt into the next Tom Cruise is anyone’s guess. So goes the power of HBO and Cinemax endlessly replaying movies back in the ’80s.

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