Using the name that came in second for Eat My Dust and working on the script with his father Rance, this was the first movie that Ron Howard directed. It takes what worked in that aforementioned New World Pictures movie and makes it even more charming.
Paula Powers (Nancy Morgan) wants to marry Sam Freeman (Howard) but as far as her parents — Bigby (Barry Cahill) and Priscilla Powers (Elizabeth Rogers, who was the substitute communications officer for Uhara on Star Trek) — are interested, she should be with the wealthy Collins Hedgeworth (Paul Linke, Motel Hell) instead of a poor kid who is studying the environment. She responds by stealing their Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud and racing out to Las Vegas.
Bigby is running for political office, so he sends Ned Slinke (Rance Howard) after the couple to stop this whole foolish enterprise, while Collins heads out after his would-be fiancee, but not before he steals a car, which sends the police — and his mother, played by Howard’s Happy Days castmate Marion Ross — after him.
He also calls KTNQ’s DJ Curly Q, who is the “Real Deal” Don Steele, a fixture in so many Corman movies like The Student Teachers, Death Race 2000 and Rock ‘n’ Roll High Schoolas well as Corman alumni films like Gremlins and Eating Raoul. Speaking of high speed and cars, one of the promotions Steele was involved in ended in tragedy. When he was at KHJ in the summer of 1970, the station had a “Super Summer Spectacular” with Steele driving around Los Angeles in a red sports car. They would broadcast clues about his location and. give $25 to anyone who found him. During this contest, two teenagers attempting to track Steele by car at speeds of roughly 80 miles per hour rammed another car into a highway divider, causing the death of Ronald Weirum. Weirum’s family sued and won, saying that the promotion caused recklessness. Steele would also often yell. “Tina Delgado is alive! Alive!” on the air and would never reveal why. I’ve heard two stories: one that she was a girl whose obituary was incorrectly written and he was always trying to make up for it. Or it was the scary version, where she was a teenager listening to Steele on the air and not paying attention, which led to her walking right into a train. His guilt led to him saying her name on every broadcast to pay tribute. You can also hear him in the Cheap Trick song “On the Radio” (“Heaven Tonight”) and when his career was down in the 80s, Ernie Anderson — the one-time Ghoulardi and the father of Paul Thomas Anderson — got him the agent he needed to return to stardom, to the point that he has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
I digress, but man, whenever Don Steele shows up in a movie, I love it.
By this point, our leads are being chased — for a $25,000 reward given by Collins’ mother for the safe return of her beloved boy — by all manner of weirdos like mechanics Ace (Ron’s brother Clint) and Sparky (Pete Isacksen); a preacher (Hoke Howell, who had been on The Andy Griffith Show with Howard); a demolition derby and even an organized crime family led by Garry Marshall (Howard was calling in all his Happy Days people) that has Leo Rossi — Bud from Halloween 2! — amongst its members.
I love how the radio station takes the couple as bad guys, then good guys, then bad, then by the end Don Steele is chasing them from their wedding on the way to their honeymoon, promising coverage of their lovemaking before crashing into a house. A total New World all-star film, this also has Allan Arkush as a clown and Paul Bartel as a groom.
Shot without permits in 15 days, Howard impressed the crew with how fast he was able to understand directing a movie. Then again, he’d been on films sets for a decade. Corman told him, “Do a really good job on this one, kid, and you’ll never have to work for me again.”
The Hammer Sisters are the kind of tough Southern girls that deal with their daddy’s murder by taking over his moonshine business, grabbing some weapons and being way tougher than any of the men they battle. Is that enough to get you to watch this movie?
Not yet? How does John Saxon playing a Southern stock car racer and moonshine runner sound? Not yet?
How about Susan Howard, former Dallas actress turned 700 Club host and NRA supporter?
William Conrad? Jeff Corey? Len “Uncle Leo” Lasser? Maurine “Marcia Brady” McCormick? Still not sold?
I get it. John Saxon was enough for me. But then I thought, I bet this movie has Claudia Jennings in it. And I was right. And that’s all it took.
What was it about American pop culture that took hicksploitation from the drive-in to the mainstream? I remember it myself — everyone had a CB radio, we all turned into The Dukes of Hazzard and watched Smokey and the Banditon HBO. Heck, I even had a silver NASCAR jacket that made me look like a 5-year-old pit crew member.
From the very first moment that John Saxon appears on screen and does his best version of a Southern accent, I was thoroughly entertained by this silly trifle of a film. It’s a Roger Corman 1970’s drive-in movie, so you’re going to get plenty of cars getting smashed up, scummy bad guys and “100 proof women” like Candice Rialson (Chatterbox, Pets).
Millicent (Morgan Saylor) is taking a semester off of college and making money by caring for Johnny (Danilo Crovetti), a mute child whose allergies are so bad that he has to wear something that looks like a spacesuit. Meanwhile, the kid’s mom Rebecca (Kat Foster) is a self-help sex positive guru obsessed with being a perfect mother yet cursed with a philandering handyman husband named Jacob (Myko Olivier) who walks around with his shirt off in front of his son’s new live-in companion.
Millicent has never had a family before and the foster dad she does have is played by David Yow from the Jesus Lizard as exactly the kind of character you’d expect he’d play. And her therapist Dr. Welsh (Keith Powell) has the hypothesis that LSD can make her less childish and awkward.
If tripping can fix her, maybe it can fix Johnny. Right?
Like every movie about a nanny ever except probably the one it references in title, Mary Poppins, Spoonful of Sugar is about a strange young woman trying to work her way into a family and take it over. Isn’t that what she’s done with every family she’s been part of — spoilers coming up — which always ends with her killing them? She’s also a woman in a young girl’s body, something men seem to want to sully, and they all pay for it.
But that’s not the only twist, which is appreciated. And that one, well, I won’t reveal.
Directed by Mercedes Bryce Morgan and written by Leah Saint Marie, this has some intriguing turns and looks interesting, but man, who would bring someone like this around their family? It isn’t until that final surprise that it all makes sense.
Hunter White (Alicia von Rittberg) started her life as a baby, abandoned in a cemetery, left in a blanket covered with occult symbols. After a DNA test determines that she’s all Scandinavian, she leaves her adopted father Raylan White (Clarence Smith) behind and heads to Norway to learn the truth and oh man, never ever go home in a horror movie, right?
If you’re going to Norway, you’re going to get into some metal, right? Hunter meets a singer of a band named Cecilia (Ellen Dorrit Petersen) who she thinks is her mother. She’s not, but leads her down the path to finding out who they really are. Hunter is really the daughter of her old bass player Kristian and his partner Anna. Anna had her when they were on tour in America and left her in that cemetery.
After that, Anna went missing and when Kristian found her, he locked her inside a church and set it on fire. This led to a jail sentence of 21 years — the maximum sentence, pretty much, because that’s how long Varg Vikernes got for burning churches and killing Euronymous — before he was sent to a mental hospital.
The truth of it all is that her mother’s family has been involved in some dark business for years and she probably never should have sought them out. They go the opposite way of the darkness of Black Metal to true Christian darkness. Actually, they’re Calvinists. Cecilia keeps seeing visions of a woman being set on fire who warns her to give up, but she feels that she must know the full truth of where she came from.
Directed by Alex Herron and written by Thomas Moldestad, this movie promises some Satanic Panic and gives you very little of it. Ah well — we can’t always get what we want.
April 3:Benson and Moorhead Selects: Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, the celebrated directorial duo behind indie cult favorites Spring, The Endless, and most recently Something in the Dirthave curated a collection of their favorite films on ARROW such as Society, Donnie Darko and Audition.
April 7: ARROW debuts two more documentaries from Paul Joyce, Sam Peckinpah: Man of Iron and Pieces of Time: Bogdanovich on the Movies.
Head over to ARROW to start watching now. Subscriptions are available for $6.99 monthly or $49.99 yearly. ARROW is available in the US, Canada, the UK and Ireland on the following Apps/devices: Roku (all Roku sticks, boxes, devices, etc), Apple TV & iOS devices, Samsung TVs, Android TV and mobile devices, Fire TV (all Amazon Fire TV Sticks, boxes, etc), and on all web browsers at https://www.arrow-player.com.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This was on the site on September 29, 2022 when I watched at Fantastic Fest. Now it’s playing on a roadshow with director and writer Micker Reese in attendance on the following dates:
3/29 – Chicago, IL (Alamo Wrigleyville) 3/29 – Denver, CO (Alamo Sloans) 3/29 – San Francisco, CA (Alamo New Mission) 3/29 – Yonkers, NY (Alamo Yonkers) 3/30 – 4/3 – Oklahoma City, OK (Rodeo Cinema) 3/30 – 4/3 – Tulsa, OK (Circle Cinema)
It will be released digitally April 4 on Fandor in North America.
Mickey Reece makes a movie a year and every time, it’s something different. Like the exorcism movie Agnes or Climate of the Hunter, a movie that plays with horror and age. This time, he’s made a comedy — kind of, as always the genre isn’t always absolute — about Troyal Brux (Reece), a country singer on the rise who pretty much seems like Garth Brooks, seeing as how this was made in 1994. In fact, it was Garth until the Oklahoma film commission took away the tax rebates they promised; when the name was changed, those rebates came back. Brooks is from Tulsa and his real first name is Troyal, so you understand.
In the middle of his rise to fame, Troyal gets a written invite from George Jones (Ben Hall). Jones is on the opposite side of life as Troyal and he wants to spend one night out in the world before he gets frozen the very next day.
This is the night they spent together.
Reece has already made Alien, a film about Elvis, but this one is about the gulf between country of old and modern country. The outlaw world of Jones and the commercial world of Troyal. Is Jones trying to make fun of the new family man who is trying to be a star? Or does he see something of himself at the start of his career, when he could see into people and write songs that connected to people?
I grew up in a town with one radio station, all country, so Jones’ songs — “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” “You and Me and Time,” “She Thinks I Still Care” — mean so much more to me than anything country has had to say for itself in decades (and don’t tell me that Sturgill Simpson and today’s presented alternatives are any more authentic country than Garth was). The songs that played on WFEM — well, with the exception of “The Bird” — were raw expressions of life gone off the rails. The life of Jones parallels Brooks in that they both had marriages to fellow performers — Jones famously with Tammy Wynette, who sang “Stand By Your Man,” and Brooks to Trisha Yearwood — but while it took Jones until 1999 to get sober and stop blowing off concerts — “No Show Jones” — Brooks has been a steady superstar. Well, except for that whole Chris Gaines thing, which this movie hints at.
I loved that this movie has asides about Tasha Yar and Denise Crosby coming back to be on later seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation, as well as fantasies — or maybe not? — of Jones killing people for organized crime figures or destabilizing anti-government officials. I’m of the feeling that the best stories don’t have to be true if they’re entertaining.
Sure, this is a movie of basically two men in a room talking. Yet it’s that conversation and where it goes that make for an incredible tale, ending with perhaps the strangest baby reveal and musical number I’ve seen in a movie. That pushed this way over the victory line for me.
Hollywood stuntman Jingo Johnson (Jesse Vint, Pigs) has come back home to see his mother before she dies. The family farm has been taken over by a mining company, his old girl Lucy (Karen Carlson, The Student Nurses) is dating one of the mining crew (Robert F. Lyons) and Sheriff Otis Grimes (Albert Salmi) has it in for him.
He learns from Nurse Beulah Barnes (Mary Charlotte Wilcox, Beast of the Yellow Night and, strangely, two seasons of SCTV) that the mining company also owns the hospital that his mother is in, amongst other farmers, and has been keeping them asleep with a concoction of narcotics. Even worse, the pills they gave her caused the disease that soon takes her life.
It turns out that the law is behind all of this — the title makes sense! — and they want Jingo to take the fall for several murders. Oh man, the 70s, a time when redneck — I say this in the kindest of ways as taught by Joe Bob — movies played with conspiracy film!
I’ve stayed away from talking about David Cronenberg movies on here because, well, better and smarter people have already done so. After all, there’s an entire zine devoted to discussing his works, House of Skin. And friend of the site Bill Van Ryn has already written an incredibly well-written appreciation of this one. But hey — I made it through the whole Joe Bob Briggs marathon and am trying to share my thoughts with you. So please indulge me. Thank you.
The film starts with Rose and her boyfriend Hart getting into an accident in the remote countryside. With no other option, they are sent to the Keloid Clinic for Plastic Surgery, with Hart suffering only a broken hand, a separated shoulder and a concussion. Rose, however, is barely alive, needing several operations and skin grafts from being burned. Dr. Dan Keloid decides to try something new: he uses “morphogenetically neutral grafts” to heal her damaged tissue, hoping that it will heal on its own. A month later, Hart is ready to go home, but she remains in a coma.
Sometime later — time isn’t really of the essence in this nightmare world — Rose awakens screaming. When Lloyd, another patient in the clinic, comes to help her, she somehow cuts him. He doesn’t remember how it happened, but his blood no longer clots and he can no longer feel pain. And Rose? Well, now she has a wound in her armpit that looks sexual — male and female at the same time. Shades of God Told Me To?
Now, Rose can only subsist on human blood, which she discovers after cow’s blood causes her to puke. A farmer watches and tries to rape her, but she is the predator now, soon devouring him and turning him into a zombie-like monster.
All hell soon breaks loose — Lloyd attacks a taxi driver after escaping from the clinic, killing them both. Dr. Keloid attacks everyone within his own clinic. Rose tries to get Hart to save her, but escapes on her own, infecting people all along the way.
Soon, Quebec is a nightmare city, with maniacs using jackhammers to tear people from cars, Santa Claus getting shot and a shoot to kill martial law policy being enacted on anyone showing signs of the virus.
Hart tries to reason with Rose — she is the cause of all of this and needs to be stopped. Of course, things can’t work out well. The world of Soylent Green has become near truth — there are so many dead people, garbage trucks are the only solution.
Cronenberg wanted to cast Sissy Spacek in the lead, but her accent didn’t work for the film’s producers. He heard from Ivan Reitman, the executive producer, that adult film star Marilyn Chambers was looking for a mainstream role. Her being in the film would help sell it and she put in plenty of work, so Cronenberg was happy with the results. In fact, he had never seen the movie that made her famous, Behind the Green Door.
Chambers was quite literally a pure Ivory Soap girl — appearing on a box of that cleaning product as a young mother with the tag “99 & 44/100% pure.” Her appearance in the Mitchell Brothers’ film — released at the height of post-Deep Throat porn chic, when adult films entered mainsteam consciousness — was a sensation. It didn’t hurt that she was also the first white woman in a major adult film to have a scene with a black man, Johnnie Keyes.
Chambers was in the midst of trying a singing career — her song “Benihana” can be heard in this film — and she was married to Chuck Traynor, ex-husband of Linda Lovelace. You could write a novel about the mania of that dude.
That said — for being a sex queen, Chambers comes off as cold in this film. That’s probably Cronenberg’s goal, to subvert notions. Even his heroes are no heroes. No one can stop what is set in motion and everyone is ineffectual. Such is the Cronenberg universe.
One thing I’ve always wondered — why did they spoil the ending of this film in the original poster?
If you want to see Rabid, you can grab the Shout! Factory reissue. Or turn in to Shudder, who has versions with and without commentary from Joe Bob Briggs.
Back on June 28, 2019, I wrote an article that still gets hits on this site called “Ten movies that were never even released on DVD.” Of those films, only a few haven’t been released, which makes me really happy.
Yet there are other movies — so many of them! — that in a world where it seems like everything is available just aren’t available. My hope is that this article will be seen by some of these labels and just maybe these movies will see the light of day in a format that costs so much that my wife will get mad when she sees the charges on PayPal.
Some rules: Yes, there may be a foreign release or a DVD, but I want a full release of the film packed with extras so that the world — well, the world of dudes obsessed with slip covers and the obscure — can enjoy some of the movies that I love. And if, let’s just say, one of those labels would like me to do a commentary track, I would not say no.
I also realize that most of these can be found streaming. Maybe you haven’t see the movie cave that I live in. I don’t want these digital. I live for physical media.
Let’s get into it:
1. Elves (1989): Yes, I know that there’s a foreign steelbook DVD. Yes, I know that the amazing Terror Vision released the soundtrack. Yes, I also know that this was on the previous list that I mentioned. But it remains one of my missions in life to get more people to love this movie. Every year during Black Friday sales, I wait and hope that this is the year when this Third Reich incest holiday movie is in my stocking. Let’s make it this year.
2. Trick or Treat (1986): How is the magical world of Sammi Curr not on blu ray? One assumes music rights, but this is a movie that has a cult audience within the cult genre audience. Again, I’m an evangelist for this movie, one that I feel does the best job of translating the 80s metal geek experience. Come on, video labels. Make this happen. No false metal.
3. The Thunder series (1983-1988): I get it. I’m probably the only person who cares about Mark Gregory this much. But in a universe where Severin has released Strike Commando, the idea that these three Fabrizio De Angelis-directed Rambo ripoffs don’t have an expensive box set with Kat Ellinger commentary kind of blows my mind. How can we make this set happen?
4. The Astrologer (1975): No, not Suicide Cult. I’m speaking of the auteur project by director, producer, psychic to the stars and actor Craig Denney and I’m really daring to dream here, because getting this released on blu ray is about as likely as us seeing The Day the Clown Cried in our lifetimes. Do I have to personally write the Moody Blues and ask them to forgive the fact their music was stolen? Do I have to go all Robert Stack and find out if Denney faked his death? I know AGFA has a print of this and man, other than that YouTube link a few years back and some secret showings, I figure that if you don’t know, you’ll never know. IYDKYNK as the kids would say.
5. The Spider Labyrinth(1988): When it seems like the well of Italian horror has run dry, we fill it back up with acqua or, more to the point of this article, more films. Like this one, a Gianfranco Giagni-directed spider-fearing conspiracy movie with hints of Argento and a spider child that must be seen to be believed.
6. Felidae (1994): Speaking of Italy, how weird is it that one of the best post-70s giallo films was a cartoon made in Germany (where it does have a DVD release)? Wait — a cute cat movie that’s a giallo? Yes. With wild dream sequences, mysterious allies, a cult, graphic murders and even a sex scene, Felidae has everything that most giallo does. And unlike some films like Your Vice Is a Locked Room that only have one cat — the black badass known as Satan — nearly every character here has four legs and a tail.
7. Cross of the Seven Jewels (1987): Man, this movie. Imagine if Satan was a werewolf who was challenged by a hero that also turns into lycanthrope when he loses his huge cross with seven jewels and then throw in the mob, a Satanic cult led by Gordon Mitchell, lots of Black Masses, orgies, whipping and a fortune teller named Madame Amnesia. How is this not in everyone’s collection?
9. Camorra (A Story of Streets, Women and Crime)(1985): Harvey Keitel in a Lina Wertmüller-directed giallo-adjacent film in which criminals are getting killed by a syringe to the unmentionables? And it’s a Cannon movie? How do we not have this?
Here’s an excerpt from a longer interview I did with the main man of all things Cannon, Austin Trunick.
B&S: I want more Cannon stuff to come out on blu ray and be reconsidered.
Austin: I want Vinegar Syndrome to release Camorra (A Story of Streets, Women and Crime). It hasn’t gotten any sort of official US release. It’s available in Europe, but here it’s near impossible to see. When I watched that, the copy I was working from for the book was a VHS rip onto a DVD with Greek subtitles that I ordered from like an English bootleg site. You couldn’t find it, right?
B&S: I watched it on a Russian bootleg site with someone screaming Russian dialogue over the actual movie. (laughs) That’s the only way to watch a movie.
Austin: It’s by Lina Wertmüller, a critically acclaimed director but she also wrote some great Italian genre movies. It has Harvey Keitel playing a drug smuggler. Angela Molina is in it and there’s a mysterious killer. It’s very giallo, but someone is stalking and murdering drug dealers and leaving as their calling card — a heroin syringe jammed in the crotch. And it’s a wild movie and it’s a Golan Globus production and has never been released in the U.S.
Vinegar Syndrome or even Fun City should be all over that movie.
There are so many that are kind of languishing right now and haven’t had any sort of release. I don’t know the rights situation for Godard’s King Learwhich is a movie that I like talking about it more than watching it. And you would think that somebody, if not Criterion, would have at least put out something. Maybe it had an MGM release in the U.S. on DVD but I even feel like that was like a region one bootleg or something in all regions from somewhere else.
Scorpion/Code Red has put out some stuff, though.
Can I pitch you on one of my ultimate releases?
If they’re not already working on it, one of these labels should be working on it. America 3000 is a weird, weird movie but it hasn’t had a release with its original soundtrack. Not even on VHS. Shout! Factory released it on a four-pack but it’s the wrong soundtrack. David Engelbach had actually gone and did an entirely different soundtrack, the voiceover was different, much less pronounced and the music cues were all different.
That’s what was in theaters, so there are theoretically film prints with the correct audio. But every version that’s been on streaming or DVD has the wrong music and dialogue on it.
10. Night Train to Terror (1987): I get it. There’s already been a great early Vinegar Syndrome release of this movie.
I want people to be as obsessed with this movie as I am. Let me put this out into the universe.
I have so many other picks — a box set of Joe D’Amato’s 11 Days, 11 Nights, any number of Bruno Mattei films, Mexican magic like Vacaciones de Terror 2— but now is when I ask: what do you want to see a big fancy blu ray release of?
This is a vansploitation movie. Yes, that’s really a genre and there are several films in it, of which I can name Blue Summer, The Van (obviously), Best Friends, C.B. Hustlers (which has Uschi Digard in it), Mag Wheels, Van Nuys Blvd. and I guess you could almost count On the Air Live with Captain Midnight. There’s a great article on it by Jason Coffman that goes deep into the genre that I totally recommend.
The beauty of this movie is that it posits a world where solar energy is already happening, van culture is the driving force in society and there is no AIDS to worry about, so all of the vans are a rocking and absolutely no one is knocking. It is surely paradise, if paradise only gets 11 miles to the gallon, fuel crisis be damned.
Our hero Clint Morgan has traveled to The Invitational Freak-Out, a major event for custom van enthusiasts, which means that any time we’re near it, we get to see plenty of b-roll footage of painted vans and all of the accouterments — this is not a word you want to use when selling Winnebagos — that they have inside.
Clint saves Karen (Katie Saylor, Invasion of the Bee Girls) from some bikers from another exploitation genre and they destroy his van The Sea Witch. That’s when he goes to the super genius van designer Bosley and together, they all make Supervan, which uses solar power and lasers. It was really made by George Barris — who designed so many other Hollywood cars — and was based on a stock Dodge Sportsman van. This thing was so big that it had a phone intercom system inside it.
Oh yeah. It turns out that Karen’s dad owns a car company that is out to make a van that uses more gas than ever before — what does it get 3 miles to the gallon? — and they have to take Supervan to the show to prevent him from making it happen, but he puts the cops on their tail.
We’ve seen Clint before on our site, as Mark Schneider is also in the Crown International Pictures movie Burnout, which is one of the few dragsterpolitation movies I can think of, so perhaps he is the perfect star for all things vehicular in nature.
Director Lamar Card is also there, in the nooks and crannies of strange movies that I find myself obsessed with, like producing the scumtastic Nashville Girl and directing the only Fabian-starring, Casey Kasem-coke sniffing disco freakout Disco Fever.
Beyond the near gynecological explorations of all of these vans at the absolute expense of story, this movie has a cameo by Charles Bukowski — the firebrand of a man who wrote “what matters most is how well you walk through the fire” — judging a wet t-shirt contest. I am in no way making that up.
There’s never really been a movie like Supervan. To be fair, I don’t think the world could have handled two. To quote the love ballad from the film, when I think of Supervan, “I’ll always remember you as a milestone in my life.”
Vansploitation got so insane during the ’70s, A&M Records gave away a Styx Van. Yes, Styx had a van you could enter to win!