The Blood of Jesus (1941)

Before drive-in exploitation filmmaker Ron Ormond found faith and made a series of films with Southern Baptist pastor Estus Pirkle (The Burning Hell), there was this early “Christploitation” classic, a low-budget concern with an all-Black cast (and crew) regarding a newly baptized, Baptist-believing woman accidentally shot by her atheist husband. Upon her death, she’s greeted by an angel who takes her to the Crossroads of Life. The story, intelligently, turns into a parable based on the tale of Blues musician Robert Johnson’s trip to the crossroads (and other Southern Baptist folk tales), as the Devil (a great James B. Jones) temps her with the sins of the big city.

Sure, the against-the-budget, student film productions values — shot for $5,000 ($91,000 in 2021) — are crude and the actors aren’t pros, but this “race film” packs a powerful punch.

The Blood of Jesus was written and directed by Spenser Williams, a black actor who got his start in the late 1920s in a series of “roadhouse” shorts. He worked his way up to a starring role as “Andy” in CBS-TV’s, 78-episode, three-year (1951-1953) adaptation of Chicago WMAQ-AM’s long-running radio comedy Amos n’ Andy (1928-1960). The radio show was, of course as common for the times, voiced by white actors. Beginning his writing and directing career at the same time he began his acting career, Jackson augmented his 30-plus acting credits as a writer of eight films and as a director of thirteen.

He made his directing debut with the 10-minute comedy short Hot Biskits (1931) about two-men in a high stakes golf game. He followed the hour-long The Blood of Jesus with another faith-based film, Brother Martin (1942), which concerns the life Peruvian Martin de Porres, a late sixteenth-century believer (later elevated to sainthood in 1962 by Pope John XXIII). Spencer Jackson’s final feature film (a really fun watch) is the comedy Juke Joint (1947), which follows the Amos n’ Andy model of two con men trying to turn a buck as part of a small town beauty contest.

If there is any filmmaker who demands a restoration box set of his films (at least his efforts as a writer-director) or a biographical film (not a documentary, but a dramatic film on the level of say, Richard Attenborough’s 1992 Chaplin homage to British Comedian Charlie Chaplin), Spenser Williams is it.

Make it happen, Hollywood. In fact, Will Smith, if you’re reading this: make that movie.


You can You Tube “The Blood of Jesus 1941” to discover several uploads of your choosing, but here’s one of them. I implore you watch this film. And I need to stop talking about his movie, before I start to cry.

Justifiably, this film was added to the National Film Register in 1991, as this is a culturally significant document on the beginning the the black film industry. It’s powerful, magnificent stuff. A beautiful film that crushes it. Watch it. Then watch it again. Just watching this five minute preview clip on You Tube won’t be enough.

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

Mary’s Incredible Dream, aka The Mary Tyler Moore Spectacular (1976)

My memories of Ben Vereen decked-out in a green sequence suit and Bowler hat like an LSD-induced Frank Gorshin from Batman . . . was, in fact, real.

And my obsession for this MTM project, is real.

Courtesy of ReelGood.

There’s nothing quite like watching an actor or musician reaching the top of their profession to relish the schadenfreude of their ego crash, burning down their career — regardless of the fact this received three Primetime Emmys (in technical fields). Such a project is this early ’70s Christian Cinema oddball inspired by The Holy Bible tales of Adam and Eve and the parable of Noah and the Flood.

Yes, step right up!

Menahem Golan’s rock ‘n’ roll take on Eve and that damned apple with The Apple has nothing on this hour-long prime time special written by Jack Good (the Monkees’ equally off-the-hut 33-1/3 Revolutions Per Minute and Patrick McGoohan’s rock ‘n’ roll inversion of Othello with 1974’s Catch My Soul) and co-directed by TV’s Jamie Rogers and Gene McAvoy (Sonny & Cher).

Does The Devil singing the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” — in full cabaret regalia — interest you? Does Ben Vereen (Gas-s-s-s in 1970, later Will Smith’s deadbeat dad in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) in a skin-tight red jump suit, his chest exposed, as he jumps around like David Lee Roth during his Van Halen-prime to the tune of “Ball of Confusion” by the Temptations do it for you? No? Perhaps Ms. Moore taking a crack at Cat Stevens’s “Morning Has Broken” — during the Noah’s Flood sequence, while she floats on God’s plaster of Paris hand — floats your boat?

Yeah, didn’t think so. But I implore you, it should.

For watching Moore decimate the carte blanche gained from The Dick Van Dyke Show in the 1960s and The Mary Tyler Moore Show in the 1970s, with this disco-ballet-musical knockoff of The Wizard of Oz — with Ms. Moore as an angelic, Eve-Dorothy amalgamate — is a whole lot of fun. More fun that should be humanly allowed. As fun as Jesus returning during the disco-era to take on the Mafia in White Pop Jesus (1980)? Hey, it’s your thirty pieces of silver to spend however you want.

For a wee lad, a leggy Mary was a heartbreak/courtesy of Moviefone.

In her 1995 memoir, After All, Mary Tyler Moore explained that this special was originally going to be titled Mary Tyler Moore Explains the History of the World (Mel Brooks, of course, would do it so much better in 1981 with History of the World: Part I). Mary’s “version of the world” went down in history on Mary’s home channel, CBS-TV — and bombed — on January 22, 1976, taking Ben Vereen (who doubles as Noah and the Devil, in his TV acting debut) and lauded cajun-county fiddler Doug Kershaw (he appeared on Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Rock and Roll Restaurant” and records by Grand Funk Railroad; in the stoner western, Zachariah, and concert doc Medicine Ball Caravan; here, he doubles as Adam and the Devil), acclaimed Boston Pops maestro Arthur Fiedler (as God), and the Manhattan Transfer (angles, devils, and everything else) (who were always annoying, yet very hot before this, and not so much after this), down with the Ark.

Oh, the vanity of Ms. Moore tapping, dancing, and singing her way across the stage to a mixture of rock, pop, and classical tunes (even a good ol’ country Hair-inspired “washboard” number) in a tale about man’s creation, fall, and rebirth. Oh, but it’s not really happening . . . for it is all Mary Tyler Moore’s “dream.”

The “dream” is Mary drifting off to sleep . . . then being whisked away to the Pearly Gates — where Heaven is a giant, Westinghouse Radio (the kind Grandma kept on top of the refrigerator) to meet God (Arthur Fiedler conducting an angelic choir), the Manhattan Transfer show up with several (awful) numbers of musical wisdom, and Ben Vereen in that green tuxedo with a “666” on it, well, not since Jim Carrey in that awful Batman movie.

Does Mary become a cave girl to pull out a Flintstone-sytled bone microphone? Does a giant, plaster-cast “hand of God” save Vereen and Mary’s Mr. and Mrs. Noah from the flood, set to the backing of a Planet of the Apes-styled, waist-deep Statue of Liberty? Does Mary and a cast of Nazi dancers sport some green-glilter, Nazisplotation SS-uniforms for a softshoe? Is that stock film footage of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger making a timely political statement?

Yes to all! Yes. Yes. And, oh, my God. YES! This is Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band on acid with a speedball chaser. No, it’s not a dream. Mary Tyler Moore in this ersatz collision of Hair tangled with Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar really happened . . . just like those musical variety nightmares of the late ’70s starring the washed-up cast of The Brady Bunch that left our parents snickering and us wee lads and lassies scratching our heads.

Courtesy of Mod Cinema.

Courtesy of the folks at Mod Cinema, we learn the “why” of this ungodly musical: Moore decided that the next season of The Mary Tyler Moore Show (which morphed into the dramatic Lou Grant with Ed Asner) would be the last, as she was developing a variety show as her next project. And this “incredible dream” served as the (failed) pilot.

Yeah, uh, no more weekly variety show for Ms. Moore.

Well, not, not really.

During 1978 – 1979 TV season, Moore, once again, attempted the musical-variety genre by starring in two more, unsuccessful CBS variety series. The first was Mary*, which featured a pre-stardom David Letterman, Michael Keaton, Swoosie Kurtz and Dick Shawn in the supporting cast. Making its debut on September 24, 1978, it ran for a total of three, low-rated episodes (its highest ranking was 64th out of 114 shows), until its cancellation on October 8, 1978.

Then, in March 1979, a mere five months after the cancellation of Mary, the network brought Moore back in a new, retooled version called The Mary Tyler Moore Hour**. Described as a groundbreaking “sit-var” (part situation comedy/part variety series), Moore portrayed a TV star putting on a variety show. The show-within-a-show format, which starred the likable and dependable Joyce Van Patten (Bad News Bears, 1976), Ron Rifkin (Silent Running), and a returning Micheal Keaton was cancelled in June 1979 after eleven episodes. Not even guest appearances by Lucille Ball, Dick Van Dyke, and Gene Kelly — starring as themselves and appearing on the “show” within the show — could save it.

Yes, dear reader, Mary’s Incredible Dream is incredibly, epically delicious. If there’s ever a time where you NEED to waste 51-minutes of your life — at least you’re not losing 9-minutes on commercials — this is it. Watch it on You Tube . . . but I have a feeling this two minute opening of Mary adorned in a flowing, pink chiffon nightie fly upward into the heavens just may be all you need to decide if you want to spend another 51-minutes with this, well, train wreck that gives the teachings of Jesus a bad name.

Oh, by the way . . . if you need to know more (we know you don’t, but anyway) about Mary Tyler Moore, there’s an hour-long Reelz-exclusive documentary (well, 44-minutes, since the TV commercials are cut) Behind the Smile on Tubi.

* Mary Tyler Moore has rabid fans, so yes, you can find episodes and clips of Mary on You Tube.

** Yeah, The Mary Tyler Moore Hour is on You Tube, so take your pick of the clips or episodes.

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 Advent Calendar (2021)

So when you hear, “This is a movie about a haunted advent calendar,” well you’d probably think that it’s pretty silly.

But Patrick Ridremont’s Le calendrier is way better than I expected.

Eva (Eugénie Derouand) once danced, but since her wheelchair accident, she’s fallen into a pit of despair. After the gift of a wooden antique calendar, she begins to get a surprise each day that changes her life. Some of them lead to death for those around her, but now that she can walk again, will all of the sacrifices be worth it?

There’s a great atmosphere in this movie, even if it doesn’t know how to end things. It also has a heroine who realizes that to get what she wants, she has to become someone that she is not. There are rules with this advent calendar and most of them can kill you.

It’s a pleasant surprise that this Shudder holiday exclusive is so good. I’m used to modern films not looking like anyone cares about color, lighting and composition. This not only looks great, it plays great and minor issues with the close, it just plain works. The art direction of the advent calendar is quite good as well.

After this, I’ll never have one that looks like that in my home.

Amityville Poltergeist (2020)

Once, this movie was called No Sleep, then Don’t Sleep, then it became an Amityville movie because that’s what you do sometimes if you want your movie to get out there, I guess. Hey — director and co-writer Calvin Morie McCarthy is out there doing it, I guess.

So anyways, as you can guess, this has nothing to do with Amityville, yet when has that stopped us in the past?

Jim is a poor college student who gets a House of the Devil job housesitting for a strange woman named Eunice, even after he’s been warned that the house itself is evil. Right away, he can’t sleep what with all the nightmares and the supernatural stuff that happens when he’s awake may be even worse.

Of course, most of this movie takes place in a room with people just talking to one another. It gets boring and yet never gets into murderdrone territory where it feels like the kind of mind numbing drugs that my brain demands, instead being merely like drinking an O’Doul’s and wondering why you’re not drunk.

I realize that they’re going to keep making Amityville movies and I’m going to keep watching them. Here are a few of my free titles to improve the streaming schlock that hopefully has at least something small to do with 112 Ocean Avenue:

  • Amityville Alien
  • 50 Shades of Amityville
  • Once Upon a Time…In Amityville
  • Amityville Giallo
  • Amityville Christmas
  • Amityville Ouija Party
  • Amityville Police Academy
  • Don’t Go in the Basement of the Amityville Death House
  • House of 1000 Amityville Horrors
  • Amityville Avengers

I literally have thousands of these and I await any streaming production company that wants more.

 

The Judas Project (1993)

In the world of retail, “Christmas in July” is a promotional gimmick enticing mall shoppers to stock up on decorating supplies, as well as stocking up on discounted gifts. At B&S About Movies: we celebrate “Christmas in Summer” by spreadsheeting a six-months out “Christian Cinema Week” for the first week of December: we’re weird that way.

As this week unfolds, you’ll notice we’re concentrating primarily on the films of the ’70s, which we’ll round up (at 8 PM, Saturday the 4th) with one of our patented “Exploring” featurettes; this one entitled “Christian Cinema of the ’70s” that features a plethora of mini-reviews of even more films. And it seems Santa checked off those efforts in the B&S About Movies “nice column”: he gifted us with an early, July present: a never-heard-of-it-before Christsploitation flick.

It was a lazy July weekend, as I browsed the aisles of a second-hand store. Of course, the first section I always hit is the VHS/DVD section: it’s how I scored my copy of the Richard Lynch apoc romp, Ground Rules (1997); it’s also how I got this copy of a Christian apoc romp starring Richard Herd (our ersatz Caesar/King Herod) who, if you’re keeping track, was in the secular, French apoc romp, The Survivor (1998). Also encouraging our watch, and helping us swallow the low-budget exploitness of it all: the 230-plus television-and-film-credited Jeff Corey (our ersatz Pontius Pilate), as well as iconic daytime actor and prime-time character actor, Gerald Gordon (a government assassin, aka thief, nailed on a Calvary cross, next to Jesus). Needless to say, they are, in spite of the material and the other non-thespians stumbling around them, excellent.

Regardless of its additional lack of narrative quality, discovering The Judas Project for the very first time, 28 years after its initial release, is a blessing: considering when one compiles a week of Christian Cinema films and a film named The Judas Project — tossed willy-nilly between a copy Sandra Bullock’s Murder By Numbers and James Spader’s Supernova — calls out to you. It also becomes a double-blessing when you just rewatched the production-tragic Christian rock-apoc romp Raging Angels (1995) in the same week — specifically to review it for “Christian Cinema Week.”

The Judas Project: The Review

Jesus and helicopters: load and roll the tape!

The Holy Bible is rife with parables, but not with the moral or spiritual lesson of Tommy Wiseau (The Room) and fellow, self-proclaimed auteur Neil Breen (Neil Breen’s Movie Magic) discovering Jesus and deciding to proclaim their new-found faith by making a movie together, but not just any movie: a sci-fi Jesus movie.

The “message” here is the same ol’ salvation trope: Humanity is in peril, so God sends forth his son in the form of a man named Jesus Jesse to save mankind from the impending terror that is to destroy the Earth. The plot-twist in this fictionalized retelling of the story of Jesus Jesse: it’s told as if The Holy Savior arrived in the late 20th century.

No, we are not making this up: this movie is real.

As the film spins, one notices that, while the VHS sleeve indicates the year of release as 1993, the copyright on the film stock indicates the production began in 1990; as such, the film is woefully dated in its attempt to emulate-update the “Jesus in present times” progenitors Godspell, Jesus Christ Superstar, Pilate and Others, and Jesus of Montreal. The clue the proceedings are outdated: it makes reference to the “evil Russians” by calling out the USSR, which fell on December 26, 1991 — two years prior to its direct-to-video release.

Needless to say, as with all Christ-based films: none of the films are “bad”; reviewers in the Christian press loved The Judas Project, praising its action, acting, and even the (woeful, not-so-special) special effects (The lightning! The lightning!). The less-discriminating, secular reviewers, honestly — and isn’t that what Jesus taught us: to be honest and not deceive others — pounced on the movie: for all the same reasons the preaching-to-the-choir Christians praised the film.

Uh, no. I am not breaking the Eighth Commandment for a film review.

For this promoted, “made entirely apart from Hollywood” (in Savannah, Georgia) modernization of the “Greatest Story Ever Told” is actually the “Most Abysmal Story Ever Committed to Film”: a community theater-level production that should have closed on the same day it opened — and certainly never committed to celluloid.

We meet our “Jesus” in this updated version of the first-coming of Christ, in the form of Jesse (underdog ’80s AOR musician John O’Banion): he’s a new-and-improved, radical social revolutionist savior in this Passion Play — as he speaks to a beach-wondering multitude searching for a missing boy. Tired, stressed, and hungry, he comforts the downtrodden with wisdom — then feeds their bellies with an endless supply of bread and cheese.

Yes. Not fishes. Cheese.

Jesse eventually recruits twelve disciples, all white, natch, which goes against the grain of today’s multi-racial society in which the film is set. Why, yes: Judas shows up (daytime and prime-time actor Ramy Zada) — rollin’ in a fancy car with “Money 66” license plates. Why, yes: as is the case with any Christian apoc flick from the ’70s through the ’90s: people are crucified on crosses by threat of machine guns (to get its “point” across — and it is gruesome, natch). Why, yes, the film is anti-Semitic: Jesse’s chief antagonist is a powerful Jewish religious leader, determined to kill the Christ.

Look, I get it.

Writer-director-and everything else — also composing the companion soundtrack’s all-original CCM rock opera — James H. Barden is passion-trying with the same vigor as Mel Gibson with The Passion of the Christ (2004) — more so, if you consider the soundtrack. Barden’s “What If” question of an Earth that never knew Jesus Christ 2,000-plus years ago — only to have him arrive for the first time during the planet’s sci-fi apocalypse meltdown — is an intriguing concept. Barden’s detracting from the Revelation’s Antichrist trope proliferating most of the apocalyptic Christian films of the ’90s obsessed with the Mark of the Beast (Left Behind, Jerusalem Countdown, Megiddo: The Omega Code 2, Six: The Mark Unleashed — to name a few), instead placing the actual Christ into the same context via the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John is, in fact, appreciated.

However, if you know your post-’80s Italian, and their even-worse Philippine (Stryker), apoc knockoffs (sans the superior Endgame or 2019: After the Fall of New York)*, Christian apoc flicks rarely pull off their honorable, against-the-budget intentions. Check your roster of Cloud Ten Productions apoc’ers fronted by David A.R White, accordingly: then file next to The Judas Project. Maybe if this was made in the early ’70s by 20th Century Fox, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, or Warner Bros. with an apoc-rugged Charlton Heston** as the “New Christ,” possibly George Peppard** as “Jesus” with a 12-wheeled amphibious battle truck*˟, we have something, here. . . .

To think protestors took to the theater sidewalks over Mel Gibson’s and Martin Scorsese’s takes on the life of Jesus. The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) is the film you praise for its quality and ability to get its subtext across. The Judas Project is, by far, the far more offensive picture, courtesy of its all-white apostle brigade, women are misogynistic victims, stereotyped as promiscuous, controlling Jezebels, with Jews as the “evil” responsible for the murder of the Christ, and anyone born in the lands of Mother Russia are inherently diabolical. Can we get a little philogyny and Semitic joy up in this here church? It’s not like the Russians are Estus Pirkle’in sharpened bamboo into the ears of children . . . will someone please spin Sting’s “Russians” and let the world know they love their children, too? An entire nation of peoples goes to Hell, just because they were born there?

Ugh, Christian cinema: just. please. stop.

Enough with the bogus, “faith-based” sci-fi shilled by the likes of Loophole (about a Judas Iscariot “violence gene”), The Judas Project, Raging Angels and a David A.R. White end-of-the-world production. Please take your production cues from Alex Kendrick and his Sherwood Pictures shingle (in Albany, Georgia, by the way). Stay out of the beyond-the-low budget-indie lands of apoc-futures and stick to present-day car lots (the really fine Flywheel), football fields (the finer Facing the Giants), and spiritually-conflicted firemen and police officers (the better-than-you-think Fireproof and Courageous). Mixing Apaches with The Holy Savior sends us running away from the “Romans Road,” not towards it.

Maybe if the wise, disembodied stone head of Zardoz was quoting the gospel and commanding the Apache helicopters, we’d hit the celluloid trail to Damascus. . . .

The Life of John O’Banion

Honestly, if not for this film’s obscure rock musician angle presenting an opportunity to honor a career, we wouldn’t have gotten this far.

Radio disc jockey, TV host, and one-time lead vocalist in American jazz trumpeter Doc Serverinsen’s Today’s Children (he, once the leader of Johnny Carson’s ’70s late-night band), John O’Banion made five appearances on Johnny Carson’s show as a solo artist, as well as multiple Merv Griffin and Mike Douglas daytime talk show episodes. O’Banion also appeared on American Bandstand, Solid Gold, and Star Search (hosted by Carson sidekick, Ed McMahon; big shock: O’Banion was the ultimate winner that season).

The Star Search “win” led to his single, “Love You Like I Never Loved Before,” charting in the Top 50 in the U.S., Australia, and Canada. His biggest chart hit was Crystal Gayle’s cover of “I Don’t Want to Lose Your Love,” which reached #2 on the U.S. country charts in 1983. Signed to Elektra Records, O’Banion released several snyth-pop albums: John O’Banion (1981; his highest charter, known as Golden Love Song in the overseas markets), Close Up (1982), and Danger (1982). Finding a more receptive audience in Europe and Japan, he released the German-made White Light (1985), and appears on the Elektra-produced soundtrack with two songs for the film Legend of the Eight Samurai (1983). The Asian film led to his recording Satomi Hakken-Den (1983) and Hearts (1995) for the Pacific Rim market, where he had his greatest chart success.

During his tenure with Elektra Records, O’Banion attempted to launch an acting career with a minor-support role in Charles Bronson’s Borderline (1980), and a larger supporting role the TV movie Courage (1986) starring Billie Dee Williams (Alien Intruder) and Sophia Loren. He closed out his acting career as the Christ in The Judas Project. He died in 2007 at the age of 59 in Los Angeles from complications after being stuck by a car while on tour in New Orleans.

There’s no free or pay streams to share. There is, however, a still active website where you can purchase streams. During its initial roll out, The Judas Project aired on the Christian cable network TBN – The Trinity Broadcasting Network throughout the ’90s. The network would later finance their own Christian-inspired apoc’er with the aforementioned, Six: The Mark Unleashed (2004).

You can watch the trailer on You Tube.


* You can enjoy more ’80s apoc films with our two-part “The Atomic Dust Bin: 10 Post-Apocalyptic Films You Never Heard Of” featurette — Part 1 and Part 2. To see even more of our post-apocalyptic reviews, check out our complete Letterboxd list.

** Do we have to tell you that we are referring to the apoc ’70s “Big Three” of Planet of the Apes, The Omega Man, Soylent Green, as well as Damnation Alley? Eh, no, worries! We break the apoc ’70s down with our “Drive-In Friday: A-List Apocalypse” and “Ten End of the World Movies We Love” featurettes.

*˟ We break ’em all down with our “Ten Post-Apocalyptic Vehicles” 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.

The Late Great Planet Earth (1978): Another Look

Editor’s Note: Sam Panico previously reviewed this Christian post-apocalyptic film as part of our January 2019 “Tabloid Week” chronicling sensationalistic documentaries. As we fill out our ever-expanding database of reviews with some of the “Christian Cinema” films from the ’70s we’ve missed, we brought this prophetic classic back for another look. To say Sam and I are obsessed by this film is an understatement. And you should be, as well. And, one day: I’ll finally sell Sam on Jonathan Livingston Seagull.


Who better than family nature film purveyor Pacific International (Challenge to be Free, Mountain Family Robinson, and The Adventures of the Wildness Family) to give us a good ol’ biblical prophecy gloom n’ doomer to scare the little ones into believing in Jesus? Hey, like the film tells us: 70 percent of The Holy Bible‘s predictions by the prophets of old have come true. So, if those prediction did, it follows the other 30 percent will happen in our lifetime.

Are you rejoicing in the light, yet?

Prior to the film breaking box office records, the 1970 book of the same title, penned by eschatologist (a theology concerned with the final events of history as told in The Bible) Hal Lindsay, competed for the title as one of the decade’s bestsellers (and with his first book!) against Erich von Däniken’s 1968 tome, Chariots of the Gods?, itself turned into a 1970 film. By the early ’90s, The Late Great Planet Earth sold 30 millions copies.

Initially, the book was produced as a prime-time documentary special in 1975. The ratings response was so favorable, a new, theatrical version narrated by Orson Welles was rushed into theaters. In addition to Welles’s voiceovers and occasional pop-ins on camera, Lindsey appears to weave this theories about the Earth’s future based on the prophets Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel and Amos in foretelling the arrival of Jesus as the Messiah.

While many of Lindsey’s projections — both in book and on film — are dated, and some proven wrong in our modern world, credit is due to Lindsey’s non-fire and brimstone approach (say, as opposed to Pastor Estus Pirkle’s approach in a series of Ron Ormond films, starting with If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do?) in speaking calmly and reasonably correlating The Bible in a realistic, contemporary content — such as reasoning the weird creatures spoken of in biblical prophecies to modern-day war craft.

That is until those scenes . . . of a computer analysis calculating if Jimmy Carter, Ted Kennedy, or Ronald Reagan (the whole “666” thing), is the Antichrist . . . wow. That’s a hard swallow. Then there’s our “final judgement” by way of a 10-nation confederacy (i.e., Daniel’s 10-horned beast), which Lindsey sees as the European Common Market, going into battle with Russia (aka, The Bible‘s Magog), which will happen in 1988. But not before the gravitational pull of “The Jupiter Effect” in 1982 stirs up the sun and scores the Earth as warm up for the end times. And, if all else fails, another educated talking head tells us that man will never make it past the year 2000.

Believe it not, as goofy as it all may sound, before Lindsey brought a soupçon of common sense to the discussion, the pastors and preachers I dealt with in my youth actually believed in literal, “wild and mysterious creatures of multiple heads and multiple horns with tails of scorpions,” cooked up by Satan himself, would run loose on the Earth. Pure insanity. And we believed it. And it scared us stiff.

Whatever. As you can see, we’re still here.

Sure, we can scoff now, but this flick scared the shite out of us wee lads, leaving us a paranoid mess ripe for a “Friday Night Activity” evening at the local Baptist indoctrination center. I mean, come on, what little kid wants to not be called up in the Rapture and left to suffer on Earth, then go to Hell, afterwards? Seriously. Talk about child abuse. Youth pastors telling you Communist minions will force you to watch your mom and dad being executed. That you’ll be beheaded if you don’t allow yourself be “marked” by a red-hot “666” branding iron.

Anyway, Lindsey has since written 14 more books. When his fifth book, 1983’s The 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon became a runaway best-seller, luckily, it wasn’t made into a sequel film. Once again, he predicted the Rapture would happen at the end of the ’80s. And we are still waiting for Russia to attack Iran to gain control of the oil supply, with China not letting Russia get away with that nonsense — and all hell, literally, breaks loose — sans the multi-head and horned beasts (we hope).

Oddly enough: No predictions about a cyberattack on U.S. oil pipelines. Nothing about bat-born viruses cooked up in labs. Nada about social-media backed CHOP and CHAZ warriors overthrowing whole police precincts and running Walgreen’s out of business and out of San Francisco — none of that reality made it to either of Lindsay’s books or the film. And so it goes, as the prophetic wheels of fate, spin. . . .

You can watch The Late Great Planet Earth on the Internet Archive.org. You say you want your own copy? See, we told you an obsession for it would happen. The fine folks at Scorpion Releasing issued the film on Blu-ray available at Diabolik DVD.

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.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1973): Another Look

Editor’s Note: Sam Panico previously reviewed this Christian-leaning extensional film as part of our February 2020 “Box Office Failures” theme week of reviews. As we fill out our ever-expanding database of reviews of “Christian Cinema” films from the ’70s that we’ve missed, we brought this film back for another look.

Sam and I are split on this film. But he hasn’t outcast me, as was Jonathan, from the B&S flock. For we are still united in our love of Godfrey Ho and Bruno Mattei films. And there will always be The Astrologer, right Sam?

And what does this all have to do with the “Jesus Rock” movement of the late ’60s and early ’70s? Read on, brother.


The September 17, 1981, cover of Rolling Stone #352, with a picture of Jim Morrison emblazoned on the cover, proclaimed: He’s Hot, He’s Sexy and Dead. In the early ’70s, the same could be said about Jesus Christ, for the Son of God ruled the airwaves and theater screens.

To set up the “why” of this tale of existential seagulls (as well as the “hippie Jesus” romps Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar), we need to look back to the positive message of the “Jesus Rock” movement born out of the disillusioned “Summer of Love” of the late ’60s.

At the time, as Sam Pacino pointed out in his review of the Christian apoc-documentary The Late Great Planet Earth*, the hippie occult generation’s dreams flamed out at Altamont and was annihilated on Cielo Drive. I have to add that, the hippies, whether they accepted it or not, were long since assimilated by Madison Avenue. There was still money to be made at the expense of the “Summer of Love,” for it was no longer an ideal, but a marketing campaign.

Enter Brother J. to breath new life into a down-the-tubes advertising crusade.

The short-lived “Jesus Rock” genre (for a contemporary context: think of the 36-month run of the Nirvana-driven Grunge era) hit its peak in 1972 when the Doobie Brothers scored a Top 40 hit with “Jesus Is Just Alright.” Other bands topping the Billboard charts were the Stephen Stills-led “supergroup” Manassass (with Chris Hillman of the Byrds) and “Jesus Gave Love Away For Free” (1972) (remembering the Byrds started the genre with their 1969-version of the Doobies’ later hit), “Jesus is a Soul Man” by Lawrence Reynolds (1970), Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the the Sky” (1970), Charlie Allen and his band Pacific Gas & Electric with “Are You Ready” (1971), Sweathog with “Hallelujah,” “Put Your Hand in the Hand” (1971) by the Canadian band Ocean, “Joy to the World” (1971) by Three Dog Night, and “If You Wanna Get to Heaven” by Ozark Mountain Daredevils (1974).

Myrrh Records, a leading Christian music label, had their catalog distributed via A&M Records, which brought Petra (a Southern/Country Rock concern) to a national stage. Ohio’s Glass Harp (friends with the Eagles’ Joe Walsh, then of the James Gang), signed with Decca, and the Resurrection Band broke new ground with their Zeppelin/Sabbath “heavy blues” take on the genre. The smash hit, Broadway “Rock Operas” Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell were adapted into films; their respective cast albums and soundtracks topped the charts, with singles from each becoming Top 40 hits for Murray Head, Yvonne Elliman, Helen Ready, and even Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan.

So, with Columbia and Universal releasing their competing films versions of Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar in 1973 (in March and August, respectively), the odd-studio out, Paramount, wasn’t missing the “Jesus Rock” boat. So they optioned writer Richard Bach’s 1970 best-selling novella, Jonathan Livingston Seagull. And since the book — as did the two stage-to-films that inspired its production — didn’t come with a soundtrack, Paramount, through Columbia Records (his label), contracted Neil Diamond to write a companion piece to the book/film. Yes, Neil Diamond, the bane of many’s musical existence (not me), made a “Jesus Rock” album — and topped the album and singles charts.

Jonathan (aka Jesus Christ, voiced by James Francisus) tires of the boring life in his sea-gull clan. So he experiments with new, always more daring flying techniques (putting way the flesh and finding his spiritual side). Since his spiritual quest goes against the communal grains, the flock’s elders (Hal Holbrook) expel him from the clan (as was, if you know your Bible, Jesus). So Jonathan sets out upon the Earth to discover wisdom, find disciples, and a higher reason for being.

Needless to say, the general public had a hard enough time comprehending spiritually conflicted, sentient computers and alien interpretations of heaven as an all white-luxury hotel suite, as an astronaut traveled his “inner space” in 2001: A Space Odyssey. So, most — film critic Roger Ebert infamously walked out of the film — weren’t going for intelligent seagulls backed by a Neil Diamond soundtrack.

The seagulls, of course, do not actually talk; you’re hearing their “thoughts,” as it were, courtesy of a voice cast rounded out by Juliet Mills and Richard Crenna. You have to give Hall Bartlett credit, who, without the benefits of CGI or animation, somehow managed to film seagulls and frame it with dialog to give us an impression the gulls, in fact, talk.

If Roma Downey and her husband/producing cohort Mark Burnett (who found great success with their The Bible miniseries and 2014’s Son of God) remade this, courtesy of technology, the gulls — as do all of the animals in today’s films and television commercials, would actually, “talk.”

But let’s let this one be.

If you enjoyed the book — which many (criminally) dismissed as metaphysical drivel and thus, hated the movie — you’ll love the movie, a movie that is of its time and place: a time when seagulls could talk and Jesus was, in fact, “hot, sexy and dead.”

You can enjoy the soundtrack, in its entirety, on You Tube. The film is easily found on multiple PPV streaming platforms.

* We’ve also taken a second look at Jonathan Livingston Seagull, and its part in the “Jesus Rock” movement of the ’70s, this week.

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 Cross and the Switchblade (1970)

There is no better film to start off our “Christian Cinema/Christploitation Week” of film reviews than this faith-based trailblazer distributed, in part, by 20th Century Fox. Its success resulted in a shift for Christian and faith-based films that took their battered, film-canistered reels off the roadshow circuit, out of church auditoriums and revival tents, and into mainstream, secular theaters*. The gambit paid off, as the once beleaguered production was not only a box-office success in the states, but a hit in over 150 countries where the film was translated into 30 languages.

The original theatrical one-sheet. The film was produced by Billy Graham associate Rick Ross and written and directed by actor Don Murray.

Not bad for a paperback copy of a book catching the corner of Pat Boone’s eye at an airport newsstand on the way to Mexico City. In interviews, Boone stated he was immediately engrossed in the life story of Pentecostal pastor David Wilkerson, which he called “a modern day sequel to the New Testament’s Acts of the Apostles.” So he optioned the book to transform it into a movie. . . .

Easier said than done.

Less than a dollar for a best-selling book that sold four million copies by 1968; by 1975, adapted into 30 languages, the sales blossomed to six million.

Boone said in interviews at the time of the film’s release that all the major studios passed, with the opinion that “religion is poison at the box office.”** So began Pat Boone’s five-year journey to get the film made.

Ugh. Studio executives. Hey, aren’t you the same guys that gave a greenlight to Skidoo and Myna Breckinridge, and gave Russ Meyer the keys for Beyond the Valley of the Dolls?

Luckily, Rick Ross, who made films for fifteen years with the Billy Graham Organization, and with the help of the Pennsylvania-based American Baptist Convention, production began on location in Harlem in October 1969. The script was penned and directed by actor Don Murray. Murray had already penned two, long forgotten, faith-based films: The Hoodlum Priest (1961), in which he starred in the true story of street minister Friar Charles Clark, and Confessions of Tom Harris (1969), in which he starred with Linda Evans in the true story of Tom Harris, an alcoholic ex-GI and loan shark debt collector who experienced a religious conversion and became a drug counselor (Harris was also a Golden Gloves boxer and future Hollywood stuntman).

Christian and secular audiences responded positively to The Cross and the Switchblade, making it a modest box office hit against its slight budget. The film’s detractors, of course, didn’t take the film’s production values to task nor its script or directing by actor Don Murray: their main rub was that Pat Boone starred — and was “unconvincing” in the role.

Ugh. Whatever, you uppity-degree, English literature critics who failed as screenwriters. Hey, are you by any chance related to the studio executives that said the film would never be a hit?

Also adapted into a comic book by iconic artist Al Hartley, the story begins as Assemblies of God pastor David Wilkerson reads a 1958 issue of Life magazine about the lives of seven Brooklyn teenagers who are members of a criminal gang. From that, Wilkerson receives a calling to minister to the city’s gangs — and steps into the middle of a gang war between the Mau Maus — led by Nicky Cruz (a fine Eric Estrada, forget the critics) — and the Bishops. And both gangs scoff at the pastor’s plans to hold a youth rally to invite all of the gangs and drug addicts in New York.

At first, Cruz conspires to get “rid of the preacher man” by using Rosa, his heroin-addicted girlfriend in his plans. In time, the pastor, though Christ, melts the gang leader’s heart — and he brings a truce among the gangs. Nicky Cruz then becomes an ordained minister and, with David Wilkerson, they start a teen center, Teen Challenge, to help other, trouble youths.

Sound hokey? Well it’s all true. It happened. Sometimes, real life — and the best things in life — are corny.

Al Hartley, who worked for Stan Lee and Marvel comics drawing Spiderman, The Hulk and Ironman, received Christ as His Lord and Savior in 1967.
Al Hartley now has many of his secular and faith-based titles — including his Archie-verse — available as Kindle Digitals through Amazon.

A sequel, which concentrated on the post-salvation life of Nicky Cruz and his own ministry, was to be produced by the team behind Erik Estrada’s second Christian-based film, The Ballad of Billie Blue (1972). Sadly, that film was never realized, and Estrada’s chance to have his name, alone, on the top of a marquee, was lost. He’d go on to co-star with George C. Scott and Stacy Keach in The New Centurions (1973), Airport 1975 (1974), and Midway (1976). He then booked his iconic role on NBC-TV’s CHiPs (1977 – 1983): a blessing that made him a star, but derailed his theatrical potential.

You can enjoy this simply wonderful movie courtesy of the Vision Video You Tube portal; it’s an ad-supported steam with the ability to skip through the ads. The studio shingle also offers the film as a 50th anniversary DVD via their website. You can also watch it on Christian Cinema auteur David A.R. White’s (whose name you’ll see mentioned, often, this week) PureFlix platform. You can sample the trailer on You Tube.

The Cross and the Switchblade is a stellar, inspirational film filled with a lot of heart. Boone and Estrada are fine, and Don Murray’s script and direction — considering the budget and the long journey to the get the film made — is an engaging, entertaining watch.

So watch it.

* One of those later, well-received, mainstreamed faith films was 1978’s Born Again, Frank Capra, Jr.’s biographical film on the life of Richard M. Nixon’s Special Counsel and Watergate co-conspirator, Charles Colson. Colson converted to Christianity while in prison and came to incorporate the Prison Fellowship Ministries.

** In 1955, screenwriter and director Henry Koster, who achieved critical and box office acclaim with his 1953 biblical epic, The Robe, met with equal acclaim for A Man Called Peter. A chronicle on the life of preacher Peter Marshall, who came to serve as Chaplain of the United States Senate, was adapted from a 1951 best-selling biography written by his wife, Catherine. Another of Catherine Marshall’s best sellers, 1967’s Christy, based on the life of her mother, a school teacher who taught impoverished Appalachian children, was adapted into a 1994 CBS-TV movie and television series.

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

WRITERS WANTED: 2022 schedule inside

We’re always looking for more writers to be part of the site. Sure, we don’t pay, but we’re willing to let you write about just about any movie that you want to, at any length and in any style or format. We get around 1,000 visitors a day and share our reviews on Letterboxd, IMDB, Amazon, Rotten Tomatoes, Facebook and Twitter, so your work will get an audience. writerswanted2

In December, we’ll be doing the following topics:

  • Dec. 5 – 11: Filipino war movies
  • Dec. 12-18: Joe D’Amato week
  • Dec. 19-25: Sequels
  • Dec. 26-Jan. 1: Made for TV movies

January 2022

  • Jan.2-8: Free
  • Jan 9-15: Not so classic monsters: Strange interpretations of the Universal Monsters
  • Jan. 16-22: Curtis Harrington
  • Jan.23-29: Japan
  • Jan. 30: Free day

Franc-tuary 2022: All Jess Franco all month long

March 2022: All Cannon all month long

If you want to be part of the site, just email us at bandsaboutmovies@gmail.com. We look forward to having you write for us. We’re easy on deadlines, have no limit on word count and are excited to help you either get a new audience for your site or write about movies for the first time.

Amityville Vampire (2021)

Look, I’ve seen enough Amityville movies now that it takes a lot to surprise me. But the fact that this was directed and co-written by Tim Vigil knocked me out.

Tim Vigil may not be a huge name to you, but those that loved black and white outlaw comics know and revere his name. Starting with the comic book Grips — imagine Wolverine being allowed to murder people — and getting to beyond out there books like EO and Faust — which became the Brian Yuzna film in the 2000 movie Faust: Love of the Damned — Vigil’s incredible art made him the kind of creator worth following from book to book.

The cleanest Faust image I could find

Even some of my fellow comic book mutants had no idea this movie was coming. I had to hunt down the truth — was this the Tim Vigil? And yep, right in the middle of his Instagram, which repeatedly gets shut down because Tim loves posting images that upset pretty much anyone decent, there was the art for this movie.

Much like Danzig’s Verotika, this is the movie that you’d expect Tim Vigil to make.

If you love his stuff, you’ll be excited. If you hate it, well, stay far away.

The first nice thing you can say about this film is that the Amityville House actually shows up in the movie as a cleaning crew comes to do their work at 112 Ocean Avenue. Sure, this footage is a different aspect ratio than the rest of the film and the cleaning crew scenes were directed by someone else and they try to explain why the evil gets in the woods. It’s pretty much like how Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror is a werewolf movie but has a Frankenstein title because Sam Sherman already had 400 theaters lined up for the Al Adamson film Dracula vs. Frankenstein and had promised those grindhouses and drive-ins a Frank-centric double feature.

This leads to two people in the woods making out, but when his girlfriend won’t put out, Kurt sends her to the doom of being attacked by the titular vampire, who is played by the astoundingly named Jin N. Tonic, who was also in not only Dracula in a Women’s Prison but Frankenstein in a Women’s Prison. Somewhere, probably in Hell, Bruno Mattei is pleased.

Meanwhile, radio DJ and former rock star Johnny (Anthony Dearce) and Fran (Miranda Melhado) are on the way to those very same woods. He keeps telling her stories of how it’s haunted, making this kind of an anthology, which works better than it should. Except that the place they’re going is Red Moon Lake and not Amityville, but come on, we knew that was coming.

So there’s a story about Lilith — the vampire from the opening — inviting a woman to Thanksgiving and another where a man begs Lilith to do what God can’t and save his dying wife. Why he would tell her these stories happened in the place they’re going to is beyond me, but don’t look for life lessons in Amityville ripoff movies.

Meanwhile, Kurt now has a bunch of friends that are looking for women to assault. Yes, this is a movie filled with women showing up only to show off their breasts, long conversations that go nowhere, women being punched in the face and then laughing about it, a sexual assault filmed like the Austin Powers joke gag that really is reprehensible, a seeming encouragement of suicide, horrible looking blood, a decent looking vampire, a breast signing in a parking lot that doesn’t match the tone of the rest of the movie, some of the most over the top line reads and reaction shots you’ve ever seen in a movie and all the quality you expect from a direct to streaming poorly lit, filmed and soundtracked effort by a first-time director.

In short, it’s exactly the kind of movie I look for. What a glorious mess and man, I hope Tim Vigil makes tons of movies. It’s not good, but it’s not good in the violently bad way that says to me that his films are only going to get weirder, wilder and less concerned with petty concerns like continuity, color balancing, story and realistic effects and more worried with creating the kind of boundary-pushing magic that the Satanic mass orgy scenes in Faust delivered.

I mean, Tim Vigil tried to sell a 15-year-old me an art print of it and when I told him, “Well, I still live at home with my parents because I’m in high school,” he called me a pussy and I thanked him for it.

Dear Tim Vigil,

I now have my own home.

Make more movies.

I will buy them all.

Thanks,

Sam (former pussy)