Concrete Angels (1987)

This lost and obscure Canadian theatrical made its way across the U.S. boarder on VHS — sans publicity or any distribution. It’s a film I never came across by way of my multiple video memberships nor cutout bin excursions. It wasn’t until our local, dead and abandoned shopping mall transformed into an “outlet mall,” where retailers rented out a store space (well, cubicle) to sell their wares. In other words: it was an indoor swap shop.

Anyway, this older, crusty but still chatty gentleman, who was in the drive-in racket back in the day, then, when that industry dried up, he got into the home video market — but he hated running a video store. So he rented out a space and started purging his inventory. Then he got sick of that: one day I go to his canvas-fenced cubicle — and he’s gone.

So goes the story of how I got my copy of I-never-heard-of this faux-band romp that crosses Eddie and the Cruisers with American Graffiti — and uses the Beatles’ September 7, 1964, debut appearance in Toronto, their first of two concerts, at the Maple Leaf Gardens hockey area.

This isn’t the first time the history of the Beatles fueled a fictional tale. Robert Zemeckis (I love him for Used Cars, alone; the rest is gravy) scripted I Wanna Hold Your Hand (1978) around the Beatles’ historic February 8, 1964, appearance on CBS-TV’s Ed Sullivan Show. In that tale, a group of friends (headed by Nancy Allen and the Wendy Jo Sperber) scheme 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 — in a plot that reminds of the earlier Brian Adams tale about a failed teen band, “Summer of ’69” — 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?

Fortunately, unlike Larry Buchanan’s earlier faux-Jim Morrison romp, Down on Us (1984), with its ersatz Doors, Hendrix, and Joplin tunes, first time producer and director Carlo Linconti secured the right to Beatles tunes — but only in cover tune form (“Twist and Shout,” “Money (That’s What I Want),” “I Saw Her Standing There,” “A Hard Day’s Night,” “P.S I Love You,” “Misery,” “From Me to You,” “Love Me Do,” and “She Loves You”) — as interpreted by the Canadian new-wave band Quasi Hands (their lone EP is on eBay and heard on You Tube). Other songs appearing in the film are the oldies-classics (originals/covers mix) of Chuck Berry, Little Eva, Dion, and the Shirelles. One of the Beatles’ major influences, Buddy Holly, appears — however, in a cover form — by way of the Blushing Brides (who later etched out a career as a popular Rolling Stones tribute band; you can learn more about the ‘Brides at Canadian Bands).

Do we meet the faux-Beatles as portray by actors? Nope. But Paul’s voice shows up for a quickie (phone call) as voiced by Gary Grimes (aka “Hermie” from the American Graffiti knocks Summer of ’42 and Class of ’44) — or was he duping John, I wasn’t paying that much attention.

Do the Fab covers have the vim and vigor of the Beatles? Nope. They’re the “Drab Four”; the bar band covers you’d expect from a band as you suck back an Iron Horse at your local suds dispensary.

As for the acting: Eh, the acting is okay, but nothing to write home about. Italian-Canadian actor Tony Nardi, however, in his first starring role (after a bit part in Videodrome), earned his first of five Genie Award nods (Canada’s Oscars) for his role as Sal — was he a slimy band manager, radio executive, or . . . eh, don’t care; again, I wasn’t paying that much attention. Yeah, Concrete Angels is one of those films that lends itself to one viewing (two, if you’re a smarmy critic writing for a website in Pittsburgh), and you’re done. It’s not — as with Splitz or Hail Caesar — a beauty, eh.

Carlo Linconti is still active as a producer and director. Amid his 20-plus producer credits — one was the 1974 killer bugs romp Phase IV — he’s directed fourteen films; his most recent, in-production film is the western adventure, Bordello.

As for Concrete Angels, there’s no online streams — free or pay — but the VHS copies are out there on Amazon and eBay. There’s no DVDs from what we can see, but if they are, be assured they’re grey market rips off the VHS, so emptor the caveats, ye junk cinema purveyor.

Be sure to join us for our three part “The Beatles: Influence on Film” series as we look at Concrete Angels and 33 other films dealing with the legacy of the Beatles.

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

Possums (1998)

Okay, so this radio station flick doesn’t deal in rock ‘n’ roll, but in sports.

But we can cheat this flick into our latest “Rock ‘n’ Roll Week” of reviews courtesy of its star: Texas-born country singer, songwriter, and actor Mac Davis. Best known for his huge, ’70s AM radio solo hits “Baby, Don’t Get Hooked on Me,” “One Hell of a Woman,” and “Burnin’ Thing,” he made his mark in the business by writing Elvis Presley’s late ’60s hits “In the Ghetto” and “A Little Less Conversation.”

As an actor, Davis made his feature film debut — after hosting his own NBC-TV music-comedy variety show The Mac Davis Show from 1974 to 1976 — with one of the better dramas about the dark side of football, North Dallas Forty (1979), holding his own alongside Nick Nolte.

For his ninth film, five of which were TV movies across the “Big Three” networks, Davis followed his work in the unfortunate box office bomb The Sting II (1983) — which, in conjunction with the failure of his second starring role as a divorced private detective in Cheaper To Keep Her (1981), ended his theatrical career — with the modestly budgeted ($1.4 million) sports comedy, Possums.

Sadly, while this lone writing/directing debut by producer and production coordinator J. Max Burnett (family-oriented series for Nickelodeon and The WB) was hailed as a “sports classic” in the tradition of the (superior) sports dramas Rudy and Hoosiers, and well received at the 1998 Seattle and Heartland International Film Festivals, Possums failed to find widespread theatrical distribution outside of the big “football states” of Oklahoma and Texas — where the “Friday Night Lights” rule.

So, Possums was unceremoniously dumped into the home video marketplace and easily found at your local Blockbuster Video.

Will Clark (Davis), an ex-semi-pro player, runs a small town hardware store in Nowata, Oklahoma (a real town, northeast of Tusla, where the film was shot on location), and sidelines at the town’s radio station as “the voice of the Nowata High Possums” — a team that hasn’t won a game in 25 years and hasn’t scored a touchdown in 13 years. And with the giant, Walmart-like retailer Maxi Mart wanting to move into Nowata, which will provide a much-needed boost to the dying, local economy, town mayor Charlie Lawton (B&S favorite Andrew Prine!!) decides to cancel the school’s football program to make way for progress — with Maxi Mart using the football field for their location.

Then, as the next autumn arrives, and the heavy equipment — instead of the local football team — readies to roll onto the field, Will jumps into action.

Distraught at seeing his small town life disappearing, as well as loosing his hardware store and his radio gig, he — to the dismay of his wife (Cynthia Skies; a regular on NBC-TV’s St. Elsewhere and CBS-TV’s JAG; later a producer on Bladerunner 2049) dipping into the family’s dwindling finances — buys airtime on the radio station and begins commentating imaginary football games — games in which the Possums embark on a miracle winning streak and head to the state finals to take on the longstanding champion rivals of Pratville High School.

Then the real Pratville team (led by real life Dallas Cowboys coach Barry Switzer, holding his thespian own) lays down a challenge to play a real game. Now, with the town’s new sense of hope and support, Will brings the Possums back onto the field. Can Will and his son (Jay Underwood, the original The Human Torch in Roger Corman’s 1994 The Fantastic Four) train the rag-tag Possums to believe in themselves and repeat the success of Will’s faux-radio broadcasts?

There’s more films set inside radio stations to be enjoyed with our “Exploring: Radio Stations on Film” featurette.

Is it all an implausible cliche? Is it all just another rag-tag misfits on an underdog adventure flick that we’ve seen before, back to Disney’s Might Ducks hockey franchise and into the later, Keanu Reeves one-two sports punch with The Replacements (2000; itself about football) and Hardball (2001; an inner-city Little League team)?

Sure it is.

Look, Possums is not the greatest sports drama ever made — and certainly doesn’t hold up to its promotional copy claims evoking Rudy and Hoosiers — but it’s not the worst, either. The small town characters (one of which is played by the great Dennis Burkley of Mask fame) are fun, and there’s no foul language or violence.

The joy of watching Possums is that isn’t about radio broadcasting — or football, for that matter. It’s a film about one’s love of their home town, the unity of community, and believing in the impossible. And in days like these, surrounded by the hashtagging warriors of the Internet divide, we need to believe in the impossible. And in ourselves. And that’s Possums.

Possums was available as a VOD on the Amazon and Vudu platforms, and as a free with-ads-stream on Tubi, but as result of recent licensing issues, it’s not currently available for online streaming. But the VHS and DVDs abound in the online marketplace and you can keep on eye out for it on the digital platform of the current rights holders at Multicom.tv.

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.

Slipstream (1973)

“If I ventured in the slipstream
Between the viaducts of your dreams.”

— Van Morrison, “Astral Weeks” (1968)

My attendance of the recent Saturday Night Drive-In Asylum Double Feature Watch Party on September 5 — which featured The Redeemer (1978) — brings us to this review. And I have to admit that, until this most recent viewing of The Redeemer and digging deeper into the film’s history, I had no idea of that occult-slasher’s connection to this Canadian radio drama by way of actor Michael Hollingsworth. If we are to believe the digital content managers at the IMDb, Hollingsworth, in the role of the hippy Billy, made his acting debut in Slipstream—and vanished from the business after his portrayal of the gay actor, Roger, who met his fate at the hands of The Redeemer.

The writer of Slipstream, William Fruet, aka the “Roger Corman of Canada,” is a name oft mentioned around these ‘ere parts of Steel Town, U.S.A., if not in a direct review, such as for his works Funeral Home, Baker County, U.S.A., Killer Party, and Blue Monkey, we’ve mentioned his work in passing within the context of other canuxploitation flicks.

One day, we’ll get to three of my personal favorites of Fruet’s oft-run, ’80s HBO and Showtime oeuvre with the Perry King and Don Stroud Vietnam-slanted serial killer drama, Search and Destroy (1979), the Peter Fonda and Oliver Reed-starring giant serpent romp, Spasms (1983), and, what I consider Fruet’s crowned jewel: the home-invasion classic, House by the Lake, aka Death Weekend (1976), which also stars Don Stroud, along with Brenda Vaccaro as the damsel-in-distress. Of Fruet’s seven writing credits, among his thirty-nine directing credits, he directed House by the Lake and Spasms. He already proved his skills as a director on his first feature film: Wedding in White (1972), a film starring Donald Pleasence and Carol Kane which he also wrote. Why the reins of Slipstream were turned over to first-time director David Acomba, who never expanded his recognition beyond the Great White North’s borders, sans his work on The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978), is a reason lost to the ages.

Now, looking at the theatrical one-sheet, we’re sure your eyes perked up at the sight of Macon, Georgia-born actor Luke Askew, who first came to widespread acclaim with his role as Boss Paul in his third feature film, Cool Hand Luke (1967) starring Paul Newman, and the Charlton Heston western follow-up, Will Penny (1967). In addition to appearing in the war flicks The Devil’s Brigade (1968) alongside William Holden and The Green Berets (1968) with John Wayne (Hey, Pops!), Askew delved into Italian spaghetti westerns as a first-time leading man with Night of the Serpent (1969), and the annals of bikerdom with the likes of Easy Rider (1969), and Angel Unchained (1970) with Don Stroud. By the time of his role as troubled DJ Mike Mallard in Slipstream, Askew began his long-fruitful transition as a well-respected U.S. television actor, appearing in both series and TV movies. But Askew took the time to work with David Carradine in The Warrior and the Sorcerer (1984) and Ciro H. Santiago’s Mad Max rip, Dune Warriors (1991). Oh, and there’s Paul Schrader’s Rolling Thunder (1977) with William Devane.

Yeah, we could go on and on with all of the great movies we’ve watched with the late Luke Askew. . . . Oh, almost forget: he was a recording artist that Bob Dylan likened to blues great Bobby Blue Bland.

And that brings us to this Canadian film that’s mismarketed as “featuring” the music of Van Morrison and Eric Clapton”; in reality, it features only a snippet of one Morrison song — the title cut from his breakthrough album Astral Weeks (1968) that bookends the film — and one Clapton song in its entirety — “Layla” from Derek & the Dominos.

Askew is Mike Millard, a popular but brooding-reclusive Albertan DJ who runs his popular pirate radio station from a remote wilderness farmhouse. As with Clint Eastwood’s Dave Garver on KRML in Play Misty for Me (1971), Millard is all about mood; he spins off-beat tunes interjected by poetic passages that connect with the youth counterculture. Millard’s soul rolls with the independent spirit of Wyatt Williams from Easy Rider; in lieu of a motorcycle, Mike uses the airwaves; his on-air style is one where he sticks the studio’s microphone outside the window to capture the sounds of a thunderstorm as he begins the refrains of “Layla” by the then “hot” Derek & and the Dominos.

The mysticism and mystery of his secluded broadcasts — a gimmick devised by his producer to develop an audience — has led his listeners painstakingly searching the wilds of Alberta to find him — one listener, Kathy, does, which Mallard begins to romance. Adding to Millard’s aggravation: as the show’s popularity grows, his producer wants him to play “more commercial music,” so as to expand the audience even more — even if it alienates the listeners who made his career.

Unlike the genre’s most popular film, the Michael Brandon-starring FM (1978), William Fruet dispatches with that radio chronicle’s slapstick moments for an introspective examination on the psychology; the need of a DJ being on the air and the responsibility of connecting with one’s audience through integrity and not gimmicks; about the creative, audio war where the commercial needs of the bean counters clashes with the artistic needs of a radio station’s airstaff. Fruet’s anti-hero soon comes to realize the allure of the “glass booth” that once gave him freedom is now a psychological prison.

The walls of that prison become more evident as the now emotionally-crumbling Mallard shatters the illusions of his beloved on-air persona with a half-baked interview that crushes the fandom of a young journalist-fan who successfully tracked down his broadcast.

As with most Canadian-made films, the recently reviewed Terminal City Ricochet in particular, Slipstream had a virtually non-existent VHS release south of the border and no (possibly limited; I never seen it) UHF-TV or ’80s HBO or Showtime replays. This is one of those films that — being a radio DJ and big Luke Askew fan, with a desire to see this lost Canada radio drama — I had no choice but to purchase it as a grey market taped-from TV VHS. And as with most of those back-of-magazine grey market distributors utilizing low-grade VHS tapes in multi-packed, shrink-wrapped bricks and churning out copies via high-speed dubbing machines, I lost that cherished copy of Slipstream to the blue screen of death. Chatting with one of my Detroit-based radio contemporaries who’s lived in Canada for a number of years, tells me Slipstream has never been issued on DVD and rarely airs on Canadian TV; not only has it been years since he’s seen it on TV, he hasn’t seen a VHS for as long.

My hats off to Bill Van Ryn of Groovy Doom and Sam Panico of you-know-who for their joint Drive-In Asylum Double Feature Watch Party nights and screening The Redeemer, affording me the opportunity to revisit a radio film — and one of my favorite films overall — that is truly lost for the ages.

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

Vanishing Point (1997)

Did you know their was a remake of Vanishing Point? It’s okay. No one does.

The FOX-TV Network—back when they were in the business of creating original content, in lieu of reality programming and weirdo-dorky Seinfeld (sorry, Sam) wanna-be shitcoms—retooled this 1971 classic made by their sister film studio. Ack! No one should be poking around Richard C. Sarafian’s classic. And how did Sarafian go from this, to Farrah Fawcett’s Sunburn (1979), to become “Alan Smithee” on Solar Crisis (1990)? And so it goes in the B&S About Movies universe. (See? Too many movies, so little time. So many reviews to write!)

Of course, since this is a TV film, the vague existentialism and “thinking road flick” gibberish of the original is excised, thus transforming Barry Newman’s Kowalski into an action hero. Luckily: it features the same model 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T as the original film. Sadly: the messages regarding religious cults, racism, drug abuse, homophobia, and police entrapment are lost . . . and we’re stuck with a Challenger-driven Bonnie and Clyde redux.

And if you thought Sarafian’s transition from Vanishing Point ’71 to Farrah was odd: The director, Charles Robert Carner, wrote Gymkata (1985) for Robert Clouse. Yes. The film starring American Olympic gymnast Kurt Thomas—as if no one learned their lessons from trying to turn Olympian Mitch Gaylord into a film star with American Anthem and American Tiger.

In the Challenger cockpit is the always welcomed Viggo Mortensen (who starred in the rock-religious flick Salvation with his then wife, Exene Cervenka of X; and yes, he’s Aragorn from Lord of the Rings) as Kowalski; he’s still employed by a car delivery service, but now he’s a Desert Storm veteran pining for his glory days as a stock car racer. This Kowalski’s “need for speed” isn’t the result of drugs, bets or personal demons: he’s a clean, faithful husband desperate to get home to his pregnant wife who’s suddenly hospitalized. While the ‘70s Kowalski didn’t need a reason to say “Fuck the Man!” to earn his folk hero status, the ‘90s Kowalski becomes an Americana hero as result of being mislabeled as a “terrorist” by an overzealous government abusing new anti-terror laws. 

Helping out on the radio front is a politically outspoken DJ simply known as “The Voice,” (Jason “Beverly Hills 90210” Priestly, a FOX-TV series, natch) on KBHX 106.5, “The Voice of the Rocky Mountains.” At least Priestly’s DJ is hip enough to spin tunes such as “Volunteers” by the John Doe Thing. Not helping matters is a hard-edged, ex-stock racer turned Utah State Trooper (the always welcomed Steve Railsback of Lifeforce) in hot pursuit with a Hemi of his own and a catch-Kowalski-at-all-costs attitude (if this sounds a lot like the Marjoe Gortner-Railsback persuit in The Survivalist, it probably is.) And in with the desert-dwelling assist is rocker John Doe (A Matter of Degrees) as an anti-government tax evader with a knack for repairing Hemis. (And rock trivia buffs take note: This is only time you’ll see the ex-husbands of X vocalist Exene Cervenka—Viggo and John Doe—together in the same film.)

It’s interesting to note that while a TV movie, Vanishing Point ’97 has a 90-minute, theatrical-running time. Movies shot-for-TV run 80 minutes, then 40 minutes of commercials are added to fill a two-hour programming block. Thus, 10 minutes of advertising are lost to fit the film into that 120-minute programming block. That’s bad business. So, considering Viggo’s status at the time, was this intended as a theatrical feature, and 20th Century Fox realized their production faux-pas and dumped it on TV?

What do you think, Eric?

“Jesus. Even the poster for this sucks. What the f**k was Viggo thinking.”
— Eric, purveyor of film quality and Seinfeld hater

Indeed, Eric. Indeed.

You can watch Vanishing Point ’97 on You Tube.

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 Existential and the Furious: Part 3: Vanishing Point (1971)

Author’s Note: Yeah, we know you’ve seen them before and know them well. But we’ve got some movie “Easter Eggs” in these reviews. Thanks for revisiting the classics with the B&S gang, where we coddle the obscure and the forgotten films of the VHS, UHF, and Drive-In yesteryears.

This 20th Century Fox tale reminds a lot of Elektra Glide in Blue, United Artists’ 1973 existential road flick entry about a disgraced biker-cop (Robert Blake) produced-directed by James William Guercio, who managed and performed with the Beach Boys and produced several albums for ’70s pop-meisters Chicago (who appear in the film). We also had Vanishing Point on the short list for “Radio Week,”* thanks to Cleavon Little’s blind DJ. While it was bumped for that week—but it’s prime fodder for “Fast and Furious Week.” Thank god for Dodge Chargers. . . .

Kowalski (Barry Newman) is a Vietnam veteran, disgraced ex-cop and former professional road racer of motorcycles and stock cars. To cope with his personal demons, he lives on the open road as a driver for a car delivery service. Before heading out on his next assignment—transporting a supercharged 1970 Dodge Challenger from Denver to San Francisco—he scores a hit of speed and makes a bet with his drug-pusher that he can make the trip in 15 hours.

As the police follow in hot pursuit, Kowalski becomes a folk hero to the roadside eccentrics and Vietnam-war worn masses, thanks to the on-air updates of the cross country chase by a blind DJ “Supersoul” (Cleavon “The Prince of Darkness” Little of FM) on KOW, an 50,000-watt R&B/Soul station broadcasting across Nevada, Utah and parts of Colorado and California. (Little’s engineer—an unaccredited role—is John Amos of TVs Good Times, but youngins know him for his work in Die Hard 2: Die Harder and Coming to America.) (And, is it just me, or is Outside Ozona a slasher version of Vanishing Point? That’s not critical insult, but a kudos.)

Yeah, we love this movie, but this movie also really wants to be the next Easy Rider, with its replacement of Steppenwolf by way of the equally biker-acceptable Mountain with “Mississippi Queen,” along with the counterculture band Delaney, Bonnie & Friends (see the history of Eric Clapton and Fleetwood Mac), who also appear in the film as a singing group at a religious revival caravan.

There’s no online streams, but Blus, DVDs, and used VHS-tapes are available on Amazon to watch Vanishing Point. . . .

So, we teased you about the two “sequels” to Easy Rider . . . but did you know their was a remake to Vanishing Point? It’s okay. No one does. Join us tomorrow, August 7 at 6 pm, for more tales of the fast and the furious . . . and the vanishing . . . with Vanishing Point ’97.

How much is this film loved? It has die-cast cars!

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

Suzi Q (2020)

If you’re a fan of Detroit rock ‘n’ roll of the late ’60s (Louder Than Love)—amid all the crazy fandom for all things Alice Cooper, Grand Funk Railroad, Iggy Pop, Bob Seger, and Ted Nugent—you might have heard of Suzi Quatro with her bands The Pleasure Seekers (You Tube) and Cradle (You Tube).

Then she hooked up with British music impresario Micky Most and RAK Records to become one of the U.K.’s biggest glam stars. And that success grew when she began working with Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn, best known for their work behind the scenes in making Sweet (“Fox on the Run,” “Love Is Like Oxygen”) into international glam stars.

Achieving only minor Top 200 chart placings in the U.S with her Top 10 Euro-hits “Can the Can,” “48 Crash,” and “Devil Gate Drive,” Suzi eventually found notice in America courtesy of her recurring appearances as Leather Tuscadero during the 1977 to 1978 season of the ABC-TV U.S sitcom, Happy Days (you can watch a compilation of all her music appearances on the show in the video below).

Unfortunately, the show failed to consolidate her success on U.S radio, but she did score her lone Top 10 hit, “Stumblin’ In,” a 1978 duet with British singer Chris Norman. Eventually, with the Knack-inspired new wave in full swing, she scored her final two, U.S Top 100 hits with “Lipstick” and “Rock Hard” from her 1980 album, Rock Hard.

Then along came an artist that Suzi inspired: one who achieved that number one single and album in America that eluded her: Joan Jett.

However, while the Detroit-born bassist never found mainstream success in her homeland, she kept on rocking, scoring an international hit with “Strict Machine” from her 2011 album, In the Spotlight, co-produced with Andy Scott of Sweet.

What elevates this Australian made documentary heads and shoulders above other pedestrian “talking head” rock documentaries is that director Liam Firmager chose not to travel the “feel good” promo route and create a puff piece on his subject; he eliminated all of the usual docu-candy coating. Suzi Q isn’t a cookie cutter journal that inserts a talking head here, an old photo there, and a rare film clip here; Firmager chose to tell a story—through over 400 rare archival film clips—that gives Suzi Q the feel of a musical biographical drama. However, unlike other rock bioflicks (The Doors, Ray, Walk the Line) this chronicle on the life of Suzi Quatro has no filtering; there’s no compression or compositing of characters and fabrication of pseudo events for “dramatic effect.”

Firmager not only researched his subject, he spoke to his subject; he got inside his subject. So, while Suzi Q is for the fans of an artist who sold 55 million records around the world, it’s also a film for Suzi Quatro. This is a film that shows rock ‘n’ roll fans that, at the end of the day, a rock star is just a musician. And a musician is just a job. And behind that job is a person. And that person has hopes and dreams, success and regrets, joys and pain. Firmager makes us, the fans, realize that those people behind those records on our turntables and posters on the walls sacrifice life’s normalcies that we take for granted. Through this film, Firmager provided Suzi Quatro a cathartis; a spiritual cleansing and life resolution that most of us will never be blessed; a realization that our lives were worth the journey. And that, maybe, we didn’t end up where we wanted to be or expected to be, but we ended up exactly where we need to be. And Suzi needed to rock ‘n’ roll and be the trailblazer and harbinger for the lives of others.

Suzi Q will launch on DVD, Blu-ray and VOD on July 3, while the film had a planned theatrical release at select U.S cinemas on July 1. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic closing theatres, Utopia Distribution will host a “SUZI Q” virtual event on July 1st featuring the film and an exclusive Q&A featuring Suzi Quatro and a Special Guest (available for 24 hours only) in advance of the film’s traditional release on VOD and DVD on July 3rd. The Q&A will be conducted by Cherie Currie of the Runaways and Kathy Valentine of the Go-Go’s. A portion of the proceeds from the event will support MusiCares, the Recording Academy’s™ charity, to raise funds in support of the organization’s COVID relief fund for music artists in need.

Suzi Q had its U.S. premiere at the Sonoma International Film Festival on March 29, where Quatro made an appearance; it made its theatrical debut last fall in the UK and Australia, where Quatro had her biggest chart successes. You can learn more about the film at its official website.

Oh, and since B&S About Movies is a movie review site . . . there’s a “video fringe” connection to Suzi: her sister Arlene, also an ex-The Pleasure Seekers/Cradle member, is the mother of actress Sherilyn Fenn (Crime Zone, The Wraith, Outside Ozona). And here’s a tune from her uber-talented, underrated brother, Mike Quatro.

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. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

Disclaimer: This was sent to us by the film’s PA firm and has no bearing on our review.

A Night of Horror: Nightmare Radio (2019)

The Argentinean duo-brothers Nicolas and Luciano Onetti are back with another of their retro-Italian Giallos, which began with Deep Sleep (2013) and continued with Francesca (2015), What the Waters Left Behind (2017), and Abrakadabra (2018). This time they step back from their usual writer and director chairs and serve as producers on this horror anthology throwback to the Amicus pictures of old that unfolds as a “greatest hits” package of superior horror shorts from around the world.

Now if this sound a lot like the William Shatner-starring A Christmas Horror Story with our favorite starship captain as the macabre DJ spinning the portmanteau follies, you’ve guess right. But what sets this omnibus package apart: it’s an earnest attempt by the Onetti Brothers to provide an opportunity for unknown, first time filmmakers to present their work to a larger audience.

To package the films, the Onetti’s developed their own wraparound sequence that features—instead of say, a crypt keeper of the Sir Ralph Richardson variety from Freddie Francis and Milton Subotsky’s anthology gold standard, 1972’s Tales from the Crypt—a cryptic radio disc jockey. Unlike most anthologies that strive for long segments across three—but typically five stories—the Onetti’s opt for eight quicker and shorter tales—along with a ninth wraparound—with tales of the macabre.

The anthology flicks of the ‘70s that the Ornetti’s successfully emulate with A Night of Horror: Nightmare Radio are rooted in the classic words of Gothic horror authors Sheridan Le Fanu, Gaston LeRoux, and Guy de Mausspaunt—Sheridan Le Fanu’s influential short-story collection In a Glass, Darkly (featuring the vampire classic “Carmella”), in particular.

The wrap around, if you haven’t already guessed, is the subtitle of the film:

Nightmare Radio: Rod Wilson (James Wright in his film debut; looking a lot like Rob Zombie) is the resident prick of a radio host (is there any other kind in suspense or horror films set inside radio stations?) of an overnight radio program, which he hosts in a converted ranch house, and is dedicated to all things metal and horror, as he spins his own tales and allows listeners to tell their own. Then, one evening, he receives enigmatic phone calls from a troubled child desperate for help. At first, Rod thinks it’s all a joke . . . until he discovers the calls are the clues to uncovering a dark secret of his own life that unravels across the stories:

In the Dark, Dark Woods: An invisible witch haunts a patch of woods and becomes a catalyst for another woman’s life . . .

Post-Mortem Mary: When a young girl dies in a rural Australian village, a neighbor and her young daughter help the girl’s parents prepare her body for burial. Through some post-mortem photography, they discover a sinister force in the woods has possessed her body . . .

A Little Off the Top: And for a little touch of Sweeney Todd, we have a psychologically-bent hairstylist with an unhealthy obsession about the “art” of his profession . . . and over one of his female clients. And that leads him to go Saw on her, strapping her head in a medieval torture device. Then he breaks out the Sharpie and starts to mark dashes on her forehead . . .

The Disappearance of Willie Bingham: A newly hired supervisor at a prison institutes a program (that reminds of Eli Roth’s Hostel) where criminals can atone for their crimes though elective surgery amputations based on the sex crimes they committed . . .

Drops: A professional theatre dancer’s struggles with relationship and professional issues takes a deadly turn when a demon begins to intrude in her life . . .

The Smiling Man: A little girl and a trail of creepy balloons. But it’s not a clown of the Stephen King variety responsible: it’s a gangly demon offering her a tasty treat made of something . . .

Ack! WTF! Watch out for the balloons. It’s The Smiling Man!

Into the Mud: The 10th Victim goes horror as a woman wakes up in the woods and finds herself pursued by a mysterious hunter; her salvation may come in the form of an equally mysterious creature . . .

Vicious: After a late-night out, a woman returns home and discover her sister in terror at the hands of deformed demons who’ve invaded the house.

The best three of the lot are In the Dark, Dark Woods, Post-Mortem Mary, and The Disappearance of Willie Bingham. But The Smiling Man . . . yikes. It’s a serious creep fest that I hope the Onetti’s expanded into a feature film.

Now, when you’re juggling multiple films from multiple writers, and even more directors, and trying to patch them together into a single, cohesive film, that spells trouble. It usually means you’ll end up with a disjointed film lacking in consistency across all the disciplines. Such is not the case with this latest Onetti Brothers’ entry. This looks a lot like Rob Zombie movie: well-shot, well-verse in its Giallo roots and filled with rich colors. Granted, it may have a few clumsy creative moments, and few strained performances in the acting department, but overall the Onetti’s Frankenstein’d a film worthy of a horror fan’s watch from horror’s newest crop of filmmakers.

A Night of Horror: Nightmare Radio recently premiered to a receptive audience at the Brooklyn Festival of Horror this past October and is currently in the market for U.S distribution. You can keep abreast on when it hits all of the usual online streaming and PPV platforms (definitely on Shutter and Netflix) via their Facebook page. You can check out more trailers from the catalog of the Onetti Brothers’ Black Mandala Productions on You Tube.

Update: This will be available on DVD all VOD platforms on September 1.

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


What’s that? You want more anthology flicks? Then check out our “Ten Horror Anthologies” exploration.

Some other portmanteaus we’ve recently reviewed are:

All the Creatures Were Stirring (2018)
The Dark Tapes (2019)
Dead of Night
(1977)
The Dungeonmaster (1984)
From a Whisper to a Scream (1987)
Hi-Death (2018)
Holiday Hell (2019)
Kwaidan
(1964)
Morbid Stories (2019)
Shevenge (2019)
Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990)
Terror Tales (2016)
Trilogy of Terror II (1996)
The Twilight Zone (1983)
Ugestu
(1953)
The Uncanny (1977)
Vault of Horror (1973)

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.

Street Survivors (2020)

This film’s story—my story—is not just about the plane crash but also about my personal relationship with the genius that was Ronnie Van Zant—whom I loved like a brother and still miss to this day.”
Artimus Pyle

While much has been said about Southern Rock legends Lynyrd Skynyrd over the years through several documentaries, this drama’s period-correct costuming by Lisa Norcia and set design by Eve McCarney—in conjunction with strong performances by its cast of unknown actors—will bring fans something extra beyond those “talking head” chronicles. In fact, being “inside” the plane and seeing it unfold—instead of being told what happened—is an emotionally tough watch (brought to fruition by an extremely well-executed CGI effect).

Ian Michael Shultis, an ex-EFL football player for Germany’s Furstenfeldbruck Razorbacks, shines in his leading man debut: his role as Artimus Pyle is just the beginning of a long career. The multi-talented Taylor Clift as Ronnie Van Zant — who does his own vocals on the classics “Free Bird,” “Call Me The Breeze,” and “Sweet Home Alabama” — also has a bright future ahead of him. And keep your eyes open for ex-Rough Cutt, Quiet Riot, and Dokken bassist Sean McNabb in his small but effective role as ’70s iconic impresario David Krebs (Aerosmith, Ted Nugent, Scorpions); here’s to hoping he scores himself some larger roles as well (he’s been part of FOX-TV’s Sons of Anarchy franchise).

This long-gestating rock bioflick (stymied by lawsuits; see this article at Ultimate Classic Rock) recreates the ill-fated October 20, 1977, crash in the swamps of Mississippi through the eyes of former Lynyrd Skynyrd drummer Artimus Pyle (who narrates the film via vignettes). Following a concert at the Greenville Memorial Auditorium in Greenville, South Carolina, the band boarded a two-prop plane bound for Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where they were scheduled to appear at LSU the following night. (The crash came just three days after the release of their fifth album, Street Survivors.) Pyle not only survived the crash that claimed the life of the band’s founder and frontman Ronnie Van Zant (along with guitarist Steve Gaines and his sister, back-up singer Cassie Gaines), he also physically pulled the remaining survivors out of the wreckage before staggering towards the nearest farmhouse to seek help.

The aftermath of the crash is typical of the rock ‘n’ roll business: Artimus joined the band upon the recording of their third album and wasn’t “under contract” with the record company—thus, Pyle was responsible for his own medical bills. And when the FAA discovered “drugs” (proved to be vials of legal ginseng extract) in Pyle’s recovered luggage, they called in the DEA and threatened to charge Pyle with drug trafficking.

Only in the corporate meat grinder that is the music business.

You can get your copy of Street Survivors on Blu-ray, DVD, and VOD formats on June 30 and pre-order copies though the MVD Entertainment Group. In addition, Cleopatra Records is releasing a standalone official film soundtrack (performed by Artimus and his sons Marshall and Chris). Cleopatra also released Verotika, the feature film writing and directing debut by Glenn Danzig.

Update: August 2021: We’ve since reviewed Cohn’s ventures into the CGI shark-verse with Shark Season (2020) and Swim (2021). Both are fun water romps.

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. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

The Incoherents (2020)

“The alternative/independent rock scene that exploded in the late ’80s/early ’90s was a period we hold dear to our hearts. The music created during that stretch still has great influence today, as the descendants of Nirvana, The Pixies, Sonic Youth, The Replacements, Radiohead and their compatriots are everywhere on rock radio.”

I’ve couldn’t have said it better myself, ye press bard for Loaded Barrel Studios.

April 5th marked the 26th anniversary of the death of Kurt Cobain and he’s still as much alive in our hearts today as he was in the MTV 120 Minutes days of our lives on The Cutting Edge. I am forever grateful for the opportunity afforded me to be on the air as a DJ during the ‘90s alt-rock explosion. If you’ve read my “Exploring: 50 Gen-X Grunge Films of the Alt-Rock ‘90s” and “Exploring: Radio Stations on Film” featurettes, along with my nostalgic waxing over the era-films A Matter of Degrees, duBeat-e-o, S.F.W., and Trees Lounge, you know of my melancholy and infinite sadness at the grunge-era’s passing. It is a time—like the Beatlemania-British Invasion, the late ‘60s San Francisco-seeded progressive rock era, and the ‘80s hair metal nation teased in Los Angeles (chronicled in the frames of Incident at Channel Q)—that can never be duplicated; only remembered, as the refrains of “Freak Scene,” “The Second I Wake,” and “Teenage Riot” from Dinosaur Jr., the Screaming Trees, and Sonic Youth poke digital reminders on our vinyl-reminiscing eardrums via our iPods.

The vinyl-pumping heart within the kindred spirits of writer-star Jeff Auer and director Jared Barel has created a film for us: we the drowning survivors of Seattle’s grungy backwaters. They know these musicians as well as I know these flannel troubadours: the once local, college-campus band rescued from indie label-dom, catapulted to mainstream acceptance on a national label (e.g., the Offspring, Rust, Shudder to Think, the Toadies, etc.), only to land with a marketing thud as a one hit wonder (Collective Soul, Marcy’s Playground, Possum Dixon, Semisonic, 7 Mary 3, Tonic, Tripping Daisy, and Vertical Horizon) as rap music became, as Gene Simmons pointed out, the new de rigueur “heavy metal” of 21st century. As if J. Mascis, Mark Lanegan, and Thurston Moore would receive an Elvis-embrace by more than 1% of America’s 300 million-plus consumers. . . .

Almost Famous, Cameron Crowe’s rock ‘n’ roll love letter to his days as a ‘70s rock journalist, is reflected upon in the press kit for The Incoherents. And while Auer-Barel’s mellifluous billet-doux to ‘90s alt-rock certainly lives up to Martin Scorcese’s critique as a “needle drop” film, the analog VHS centers of my brain loaded in a copy of the lesser-known 1998 British rock flick, Still Crazy. While Almost Famous was the tale of the on-the-top-of-the-world Stillwater (aka Humble Pie) falling apart, the Brian Gibson directed (of the punk-rock version of Almost Famous: 1980’s Breaking Glass) Still Crazy chronicled the reformation of the once-great Strange Fruit (aka The Animals) for a second shag n’ bite of Eve and that damned apple.

“Welcome to the music business,” cackles Clotho, Lachesis, Atropos, the three weaving witches of the looms of fate.

And the threadbare soul of Bruce Flansburgh (Jeff Auer), a 40-something New York paralegal, is desperate enough to give the Moirai one more spool of thread. If the Pixies and Soundgarden can tempt those Greek bitches, then why not The Incoherents?

Tracking down his fellow stagnated grunge stallions, Bruce quickly opens old wounds with Jimmy (Alex Emanuel), the band’s guitarist and co-songwriter, who served as the Keith Richards to Bruce’s Mick Jagger, aka the Joe Perry to his Steven Tyler. But the glimmer’s long since gone and the toxic resentments of the “Simmer Twins” still simmers bitter. And the reunion deepens the already festering wounds of his stalemated-homemaker wife Liz (Kate Arrington) who wants more than Bruce’s paralegal job can give. Will The Incoherents rule the charts once again in the young man’s game of rock ‘n’ roll?

What sells the film—like the soundtracks of Still Crazy and the Gina Gershon-starring Prey for Rock & Roll (2003)—is the ’90s college-rock retro original music that breathes life into the faux-proceedings. Actors Alex Emanuel and Jeff Auer—both accomplished musicians in their own right—wrote and perform the band’s songs; their backing band features ‘90s alt-rockers Sean Eden from Luna and drummer Kevin March of Guided by Voices. A great song—or songs—can sell a film: the ’60s retro-romp That Thing You Do! and 1999’s likeminded The Suburbans (a low-budget tale about a Knack-cum-The Romantics-esque reformed one hit wonder) come to mind. And The Incoherents brings the tunes to the turntable.

The marquee names on this indie-gem are the instantly recognizable Annette O’Toole (stealing the show as the salty-mouth rehearsal studio owner Mrs. Graham) from her too many-to-mention films and TV series. Fans of Showtime’s Billions and CBS-TV’s The Good Wife will recognize Kate Arrington, while others will remember Amy Carlson (as a dream-stealing industry mover n’ shaker) as Mark Wahlberg’s wife on CBS-TV’s Blue Bloods. And you’ve seen leading man Jeff Auer in his guest-starring roles on TV’s The Blacklist, Blue Bloods, and Luke Cage. Adding a realistic-retro vibe to the plight of The Incoherents are the acting cameos by (an insult hurling) guitarist Richard Barone of The Bongos and Lou Reed, along with Chris Barron—who’s all too familiar with cruel realties of the alt-rock ‘90s rollercoaster ride with his band, The Spin Doctors (aka the ’90s alt-rock inversion of the ’80s Men at Work).

Director Jared Barel has six shorts under his belt—one was the 2013 short-film version of The Incoherents. Coming off a successful festival run, the feature-length version won “Best Feature” and “Best Home Grown Feature” at the 2019 New York Coney Island Film Festival and New Jersey’s Garden State Film Festival, while Barel walked away with double awards for “Best Director” and “Best Feature Film” at the Studio City Film Festival. It also garnered nominations for “Best Feature Comedy” and “Feature Film” at the Queens World Film Festival, along with multiple nods at the SoHo International Film Festival. So that tells you The Incoherents is worth hitting the big red streaming button.

And it tells you I really dig this film.

The Incoherents is high on my rock ‘n’ roll VHS charts alongside American Satan, Bandwagon, Breaking Glass, Prey for Rock & Roll, Rock Star, and Still Crazy as a gold record-standard for accuracy in the lives of the men and women who suffer for their art. And the ones who lugged their equipment: like me.

The caveat is that one must consider this reviewer’s radio and roadie background: you may want to take my raves as an incoherent grain of salt—as I can’t not rave about a film that namedrops the Archers of Loaf, Generation X, Guided by Voices, Pavement, and Sebodah (especially Archers of Loaf?! Sebodah?! What the hell, Auer?). The Incoherents is a case of “you had to be there” to appreciate Jared Barel’s retro-vinyl craftsmanship. This isn’t a pretty n’ pat, major studio Jamie Foxx or Joaquin Phoenix music-bio crafted to entertain the mainstream masses via an actor’s Oscar-hopeful mimicry. This film is, first and foremost, about the music. It’s a film for guys like me: the ones who perpetually swim against the aqua firma and mount the musical and film driftwoods of salvation in those drowning, mainstream waters.

And, with that, I’m pulling out the forgotten cardboard tchotchke that is the Screaming Trees’ Invisible Lantern, and following with vinyl chasers from the Buck Pets, the Divine Horsemen, the Doughboys, and Mary My Hope . . . and remembering when my life was a bit more incoherent. And freakin’ beautiful.

Thanks for plugging B&S About Movies!

The Incoherents is available on iTunes and all VOD platforms on April 28. You can learn more at the film’s official website and Facebook.

(If you need more faux bands on film, be sure to check out our “Ten Bands Made Up for Movies” featurette.)

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. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

Disclaimer: This movie was sent to us by its PR company and, as you know, that has no bearing on our review. But, as you can tell by this review, we would have bought it anyway.

Grazie!