Searching for Sugar Man (2012)

In the context of our previous “Rock ‘n’ Roll Week II” review for Orion: The Man Who Would Be King, we mentioned the unsung career of Detroit musician Arthur Pendragon cast as The Phantom by Capitol Records in 1974. By the late 1980’s, the overseas pirate industry would victimize his career on vinyl, which was later exacerbated by the advent of the compact disc.

Another mysterious Detroit musician victimized by the pirate industry—but later, unlike The Phantom, finding success as result of those vinyl buccaneers—was Sixto Rodriguez, a singer-songwriter discovered in the late Sixties performing in a Detroit nightclub by an ex-Motown Records’ executive. With the stealthy shades of the outlandish, managerial marketing of Tony DeFries with John Cougar, Kim Fowley with the Runaways, Jerry Brandt with Jobriath, and Ed “Punch” Andrews with The Phantom, Rodriquez was hailed as the next “Bob Dylan”—and, as usual, the ostentatious promotion failed to translate into radio play or retail sales. The brief, promising career of Rodriquez, which garnered some critical acclaim, flamed out with an outlandish rumor: he committed a bizarre onstage suicide. Like the Phantom, hailed as the next “Jim Morrison,” the next “Bob Dylan” shined brightly, briefly, and then drifted into obscurity.

Except in South Africa.

The songs of protest by Rodriquez struck a chord in the poor, oppressed masses suffering under apartheid, who affectionately dubbed Rodriguez with the nom de plume: the Sugar Man (after his most infamous tune). Unknown to the mysterious, post-Rudy Martinez (of Detroit’s Question Mark, of ? and the Mysterians) and pre-Phantom Rodriquez, the Sugar Man’s compositions of dissent became as popular to South Africans as the Rolling Stones or Elvis Presley. Yet, as with the Phantom, the Sugar Man, never saw a penny in royalties—everyone thought Rodriquez (as well as the Phantom) was dead.

Forty years later, Malik Bendjelloul, a Stockholm, Sweden, documentary filmmaker, upon hearing the legend for the first time in a Cape Town, South Africa, record shop, set out to find the mysterious “Bob Dylan of Detroit.” The result of Bendjelloul’s search was the Sugar Man’s triumphant return to the stage with a 1998 series of South African concerts.

In the tradition of the positive effect the book and film documentary Anvil: The Story of Anvil had on Anvil, a previously obscure Canadian metal band, Rodriquez experienced a career resurgence resulting from the renewed interest generated by Bendjelloul’s 2002 film, Searching for Sugar Man. Becoming a hit on the film festival circuit, the document bequeathed the once “dead” Rodriquez his first worldwide, mainstream exposure for the previous South African “hit songs” of “Sugar Man,” “Inner City Blues,” “I Wonder,” and “A Most Disgusting Song.”

Searching for Sugar Man is readily available across all PPV and VOD streaming platforms, including Amazon Prime.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies and publishes on Medium. You can find his books on the career of Arthur Pendragon—The Ghost of Jim Morrison, the Phantom of Detroit, and the Fates of Rock ‘n’ Roll and Tales from a Wizard: The Oral History of Walpurgis—as softcover and eBooks in the online marketplace at all eRetailers—including Amazon.

Orion: The Man Who Would Be King (2015)

Prior to the 1974 appearance of Capitol Records’ ambiguous, Jim Morrison doppelganger, aka The Phantom (Arthur Pendragon), the city of Detroit cultivated its first musical “Phantom” in 1966 with a faceless, Vox organ-inflected quintet out of Flint, Michigan, fronted by the perpetually sun glasses-clad (masked) Rudy Martinez, aka ? (Question Mark).

Scoring a local hit on Flint’s WTAC (home to the famed “Sherwood Forest” concerts in nearby Davison) and Detroit’s KCLW radio with “96 Tears,” Neil Bogart, then a 23-year-old sales manager for Cameo-Parkway Records (later of Buddah, and the founder of Casablanca and Boardwalk Records; see the careers of Kiss and Joan Jett), purchased the master tapes of ? and the Mysterians’ hit single, along with Bob Seger’s first singles, for national release in 1966.

However, Question Mark and the Mysterians was not the first rock band to experience chart success by concealing their identity.

In the early days of 1964 Beatlemania, an unknown American rock band with a catchy Beatlesque, Merseybeat single, “Roses Are Red (My Love),” found themselves packaged as the You Know Who Group—insinuating it could be a new single by the Beatles—and reached #43 on the U.S charts and #21 in Canada. Then, in 1965, a promising Canadian band became one of the biggest selling pop-rock groups of the early Seventies, in spite of their initial marketing under the same “mysterious” circumstances.

Upon hearing Chad Allan & the Expressions’ cover of “Shakin’ All Over,” a pre-Beatles British Invasion hit by Johnny Kidd & the Pirates, Quality Records insinuated members of the Beatles and other popular British Invasion bands recorded the song as a “supergroup”—with a playful “Guess Who?” moniker (like the earlier Masked Marauders who had a hit with “I Can’t Get No Nookie“). As with Question Mark and the Mysterians, the gimmick worked. Forever known as the Guess Who, their first single reached number one in Canada, #22 in the U.S, and #27 in Australia. The success set the stage for their RCA Records debut, Wheatfield Soul, and its 1969, U.S Top Ten hit, “These Eyes.”

Jimmy “Orion” Ellis with Sun Records’ Shelby Singleton and Kiss during the 1977 Love Gun tour.

The gimmick of a mystery group was not unique to the late Sixties. All the above noted bands were preceded by another mystery singer—a Fifties rockabilly singer who also utilized the “Phantom” moniker: Jerry Lott.

Born in Mobile, Alabama, in 1938, Lott played country music until 1956; then Elvis Presley’s melding of country and “race records” took him in a new musical direction. This lead Lott to compose “Love Me,” recorded in 1958 at Gulf Coast Studios, located in Mobile, Alabama. National audiences discovered the song thanks crooner Pat Boone’s Cooga-Mooga Records. Based on the song’s Elvis sound-alike qualities, Pat Boone suggested the “Phantom” stage name to Lott to maximize the record’s marketing potential. Tragically, just as the record started to break, Lott’s car skid off a 600-foot mountainside outside of Spartanburg, South Carolina. The accident left Elvis’s first “phantom” paralyzed.

In the wake of Jim Morrison returning from the dead in 1974 as the Phantom and Canada’s Klaatu working the charts in 1977 as a phantom Beatles, it turned out Elvis Presley’s death—like Jim Morrison’s—was “faked.”

The idea for this second “phantom” Elvis birthed in the fictionalized pages of Gail Brewer Giorgio’s novel, Orion. Published prior to Presley’s August 1977 death—with a somewhat analogous storyline to Jim Morrison’s alleged The Bank of America of Louisiana tome (and predating P.F Kluge’s similarly-styled 1980 novel, Eddie and the Cruisers)—Giorgio’s novel concerned an Elvis-styled singer who faked his death to escape fame.

Under the Orion facade was Alabama-born Jimmy Ellis, a musician who knocked around the country-music business since 1964—blessed (or cursed) with a singing and speaking voice analogous to Elvis (as with Arthur Pendragon’s to Jim Morrison’s; listen to the Phantom’s backward poem, forwarded). After hearing an Ellis demo, Shelby Singleton, the then owner of Sun Records, Elvis Presley’s old recording home, pinched from Giorgio’s book (Giorgio was not complicit in Singleton’s marketing scheme) and created an Elvis doppelganger—Orion.

Adorning Ellis in Elvis-inspired capes and jumpsuits, then slapping on a pompadour wig and jeweled Lone Rangersque-mask (Jerry Lott wore a similar eye-mask), the “marketing” worked. Not only was Orion’s 1978 album, Reborn (You Tube/full album), embraced by radio and the Elvis-loving record-buying public, Giorgio’s book, once ignored, received renewed interest from those who believed the King was not only alive, but that Giorgio’s book was actually Elvis Presley’s memoirs thinly disguised as a fictional novel. In addition, as with the Guess Who and Question Mark and the Mysterians before him, Orion’s first singles entered the marketplace with a question mark (?) nom de plume to create a pre-release buzz for the full-length Orion album.

As with the Arthur Pendragon’s Jim Morrison-albatross, Jimmy Ellis suffered under his phantomesque yokes with a desire for everyone to see the real person under the mask. Sadly, the recognition Jimmy Ellis craved and deserved arrived too late. A failed 1998 robbery at his Alabama pawnshop resulted in his murder. He was unable to see his career preserved in the 2015 documentary, Orion: The Man Who Would Be King.

So goes the tales of the marketing hype with phantom rockers, ghostgroups and supergroups, as well as concept albums and rock operas, rock theatrics and ad-hoc studio supersessions—and, in most cases, their resulting lack of achieving commercial inroads. Unfortunately, there is more to rock ‘n’ roll than just the song in the business end of rock ‘n’ roll; it is about the packaging of the sights and sounds, of the images and marketing: for every Jim Morrison, there’s a Phantom. For every Knack, there’s a Nirvana.

And for every Elvis, there’s a Jimmy Ellis.

Orion: The Man Who Would Be King is readily available as a PPV and VOD in the online marketplace, and can be streamed at Amazon Prime and Vimeo on Demand.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies and publishes on Medium. You can find his books on the career of Arthur Pendragon—The Ghost of Jim Morrison, the Phantom of Detroit, and the Fates of Rock ‘n’ Roll and Tales from a Wizard: The Oral History of Walpurgis—as softcover and eBooks in the online marketplace at all eRetailers—including Amazon.

Drive-In Friday: FVI Night Part II

Film Ventures International is an obsession that won’t end. After all, Edward L. Montoro, walked away with a million bucks into the ether, like a movie-making D.B. Cooper and no one ever found him.

Last time, we featured Beyond the Door, Mortuary, Grizzly, Great White and Stunt Rock. The FVI catalog is deep, so that means we’re ready to drop some great films on you. Tune us in on your digital radio, crack open a beer and get ready for some magic. Want to learn more about FVI? Check out our Letterboxd list.

MOVIE 1: Ricco the Mean Machine (Tulio Demichelli, 1973): Is it a giallo? Is it a horror movie? What title — Cauldron of DeathGanglandUn Tipo Con una Faccia Strana ti Cerca per Ucciderti (A Guy With a Strange Face Is Looking for You to Kill You), The Dirty Mob or Mean Machine — will we be seeing as the title card? Who cares! Sure, Chris Mitchum is blah, but this has Barbara Bouchet dancing naked in the fog atop a convertible, making gangster’s minds into lust-ridden mush, as well as castrations and acid baths. It’s a mess. It’s also entertaining as hell.

MOVE 2: Kill or Be Killed (1980, Ivan Hall): You’d think South Africa wouldn’t make a great martial arts movie and you’d be so wrong. Nazis getting involved? Evil little people? A frenzied arty shooting style that might give you a migraine? Aww yeah. It’s on Tubi.

MOVIE 3: Ator 2: The Blade Master (1982. David Hills AKA Joe D’Amato AKA Aristide Massacces): Miles O’Keefe and the Cinemax After Dark Fanny Hill (Lisa Foster) in a sword and sorcery scum fest with nukes? You may have seen this as The Cave Dwellers, but just imagine seeing Miles in a loincloth under the stars! There’s a Commander USA version of this on YouTube!

MOVIE 4: The Force Beyond (1978, William Sachs): Now that everyone is good and drunk or better, it’s time for the director of The Incredible Melting Man to, well, melt our brains with this tabloid on film, all about UFOs, Bigfoot, Atlantis, Cayce and more. Your narrator? Pirate radio legend Emperor Rosko. You can watch it for free at the Internet Archive.

There are so many insane FVI movies — enough to do a whole year of drive-in nights. But hey — why not pick your own and send them our way? We’d love to feature your own drive-in picks.

The Runnin’ Kind (1989)

This is one of those punk flick obscurities that no one saw in theatres and barely caught on video due to a poor critical reception and worse distribution. Movies starring James Cromwell (Dr. Zefram Cochrane in Star Trek: First Contact; the evil warden in Adam Sandler’s remake of The Longest Yard, just to name two of his films) and El Duce of the Mentors, tend to work out that way.

My memory of The Runnin’ Kind stems from Henry Rollins name dropping the film, along with Robert Altman’s O.C and Stiggs (1985), in the pages of one of his books, possibly Fanatic!: Songs Lists and Notes from the Harmony In My Head Radio Show, about his DJ exploits on L.A.’s Indie 103.1 FM. It wasn’t until the mid-’90s when I finally found a copy of The Runnin’ Kind (along with the college-rock coveted A Matter of Degrees) courtesy of a mom-and-pop video store’s “Going Out of Business Sale.” (I VHS-snagged O.C and Stiggs off a late ’80s UHF-TV replay.)

The latter Altman film received Rollins’s fandom as result of King Sunny Ade appearing the film; if you know Rollins, you know how he feels about that Nigerian African pop singer — and Robert Altman. The Runnin’ Kind (as I vaguely recall) got his attention as result of it serving as the screenwriting debut of Pleasant Gehman, the lead singer of the underground L.A. cowboy-punk band, the Screamin’ Sirens. The band’s then pioneering mix of punk, country, and rockabilly was more commercially acceptable than the somewhat similar the Cramps, and served as an early progenitor to what became known in the grungy, early ’90s as “alternative country,” a musical form practiced by the likes of Wilco, Uncle Tupelo, the Jayhawks, Whiskeytown, and Son Volt.

In existence from 1983 to 1987, the Screamin’ Sirens managed to released one album on Engima Records (Capitol affiliated; home to hitmakers Stryper, Poison, and Hurricane): Fiesta! (1984), along with Voodoo (1987) on the U.S. “college rock” indie label, Restless Records. In addition to appearing on a couple of Engima compilations and a 1983 Rodney on the ROQ compilation, they also provided the songs for a Thrasher Magazine CD compilation, along with “Love Slave” for Reform School Girls (1987; starring Wendy O. Williams of the Plasmatics).

Directing and assisting in rewrites on Gehman’s screenplay was Max Tash; getting his start in television, The Runnin’ Kind, produced for United Artists, was his feature film debut. Upon the film’s poor reception (and its failure in advancing the Screamin’ Sirens to mainstream acceptance; it was a multimedia showcase), Tash returned to television, forging a career with the likes of Parker Lewis Can’t Lose (Corin Nemic, later of Mark L. Lester’s Sand Sharks) and The New WKRP in Cincinnati, just to name a few.

Courtesy of strosfan74/eBay

As story unfolds, it’s pretty obvious United Artists’ was going for a (little late to the show) Risky Business vibe with its preppy, self-discovering ne’er-do-well in the Cruise-esque David Packer (most notably as Daniel Bernstein in NBC-TV’s sci-fi series V).

Packer is Joey, a recent college graduate with his future planned by his over-bearing father and well-meaning, but naive mother (notable TV mainstays John Carter and Susan Strasberg). But — as with the Max Glass, the preppy ne’er-do-well of A Matter of Degrees on his way to Columbia and having a “college-life crisis” and losing himself in the campus radio station — Joey Carter isn’t having any of this clerking-for-his-father’s-law firm non-sense and attending Yale Law in the fall. In a last fling before signing his life away, Joey’s yuppie buddies from Shaker Heights take him to the rundown part of Cleveland to check out a punk show. At the concert Joey’s heart is “thunderstruck” (Thanks, Angus!) by Thunder (Brie Howard), the female drummer of a band fronted by Joe Wood (of T.S.O.L, who perform “Hit and Run” on stage).

Head over heels in love, Thunder is the inspiration Joey needs to escape his father’s grip; he ends up Los Angeles and bunks with his Uncle Phil and Aunt Barbara (James Cromwell and Julie Cobb; yep, the mom from Charles in Charge). During his search of the L.A. punk scene for Thunder, Joey’s befriended by Pleasant Gehman and her band, the She-Devils (aka the Screamin’ Sirens). In need of a drummer, he comes to introduce the band to Thunder and uses his law skills to manage the band. Along the way Joey also meets Susan Ursitti (sigh . . . Boof from Teen Wolf) and Juliette Lewis (if you don’t know Juliette by now, buddy), El Duce (Suburbia, The Mentors: The Kings of Sleaze), and Rodney Bingenheimer (Mayor of the Sunset Strip).

The affable-on-screen Brie Howard was a member of the pioneering, all-female rock band Fanny. Their album, Rock and Roll Survivors (1974; Casablanca Records, home of Kiss and Angel), had a hit single in “I’ve Had It,” which reached #79 on the U.S. Top 100 Billboard chart; the album’s second single, “Butter Boy,” peaked at #29 in 1975. Transitioning into acting, Howard made her big screen debut as the “Ripley” character in the Alien-inspired and Klaus Kinski-starring Android and followed up her work in The Runnin’ Kind with Tapeheads (starring John Cusack, along with Jello Biafra of Terminal City Ricochet). Patti Quatro, the sister of Suzi Quatro (Suzi Q), was a one-time Fanny member alongside Howard.

T.S.O.L, through a plethora of roster upheavals (from Jack Grisham to Joe Wood on lead vocals) and style changes (from hard core, metal, and back again), continue to record in 2020. In addition to appearing in Suburbia, they also provided songs to The Return of the Living Dead and Dangerously Close. Their songs “Flowers by the Door” and “Hear Me Cry” also appeared in Hear Me Cry, an ’80s installment of the CBS Schoolbreak Special (yeah, we found it on You Tube).

We found a free rip of The Runnin’ Kind on You Tube, and be grateful; for this one isn’t available as a DVD (not even in the grey market) or as PPV or VOD stream. It was previously available for streaming at Amazon Prime, but ran into licensing issues and is no longer accessible on that digital platform.

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

Spice World (1997)

Bob Spiers had worked in British TV for years — BottomFawlty Towers and Absolutely Fabulous of the shows that he directed — before he was asked to direct the movie of the Spice Girls. He had no idea what they looked like and turned the job down untl Jennifer Saunders told him that he should take it.

If you want to be snooty and say that the Spice Girls didn’t mean anything, they were the first act to reach number one with their first six singles, as well as the first to debut at #1 in the UK charts five times in a row. And this movie, despite critical savagery, is still the highest-grossing movie of all time by a musical group.

At once embracing the pop culture that spawned them and thumbing their noses at it, Spice World is, well, about the Spice Girls avoiding bad press from newspaper owner Kevin McMaxford (Barry Humphries, who is also Dame Edna) and his photographer henchman Damien (Richard O’Brien). There’s also a camera crew led by Piers Cuthbertson-Smyth (Alan Cumming) and two constantly on-the-pitch Hollywood writers George Wendt and Mark McKinney) who want to make a movie about the band.

The band is also playing Royal Albert Hall while making time for their mutual best friend, who is due to have a child any day now. That’s really all it’s about, but I’m certain that their audience was happy to come see the film and hear 15 of their songs in the theater.

The reason for people who may not enjoy the band to see this is becase it’s so delightfully weird and well casted, with Roger Moore as the secretive head of their recording label and cameos from Elton John, Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry, Bon Geldof and more.

This movie also reunited Rocky Horror alums Meat Loaf and O’Brien, as well as O’Brien with his Shock Treatment co-star Humphries.

Perhaps what’s most interesting is what isn’t in this movie. Any mentions of Princess Diana and Gianni Versace were edited out after their deaths, as was a cameo by Gary Glitter.

Beyond having Moore in this, I kind of love that when the Spice Girls’ bus jumps the bridge, a similar slide whistle sound as the jump in The Man With the Golden Gun is heard. Victoria also dresses up as Honey Ryder from Dr. No.

Maybe you weren’t around for the Spice Girls. Maybe you were and couldn’t deal. Either way, you should still check this out. I mean, even as a lifelong metalhead, I could find things to enjoy here.

REPOST: Reawakened (2020)

EDITOR’S NOTE: We originally watched this movie on May 16, 2020. Wild Eye sent us a DVD of the film, so we’re sharing it with you again, along with updated links to get more information and watch the movie for yourself.

Brooke MacKenzie of the UPN’s and CW’s Everybody Hates Chris and Steffani Brass of HBO’s Six Feet Under are the centerpieces in this direct-to-video tale about a group of 20-somethings’ vacation stay at a remote cabin in the woods gone wrong. Dabier Snell of the CW’s Black Lightning, Charlie Ian of Damien Chazelle’s award-winning Whiplash, and Tina Cole, whose resume stretches back to the ‘60s U.S. TV series My Three Sons (but you know her from her recent work in the cabin-in-the-woods horror, The 6th Friend), co-stars.

Of course, in these evil rental-cabin-in-the-wood tales, we meet the lone survivor who’s doped up in a hospital bed and suffering from dreams of spinning wall-mounted crosses and phantom strangulations that doctors believe are hallucinations. And the detective and the M.E on the case don’t buy her story. But the professor well-versed in the legend of Abigail sure does.

The best friend of Michele Chadwick (Steffani Brass), Sophia (Brooke MacKenzie), became enamored with a locket found at the cabin and awakened Abigail, a centuries-dead malevolent witch. The flashbacks of the witch’s persecution begin in quick succession and Sophia starts to kill off her friends — murders in which Michele initially takes the blame. Once released into the custody of her grandmother (Tina Cole), Abigail returns to finish the job.

Based on the fact the producer and co-writer on this is Remy MacKenzie, the producer behind the drive-In and VHS trash classics Evil Town (1977; actually an unfinished early ’70s film, God Bless, Dr. Shagetz, starring a past-his-prime Dean Jagger) and Evils of the Night (1985; with more past-their-prime ’60s actors), we’re assuming Brooke is related as a daughter, granddaughter or niece. Director Jose Altonaga and MacKenzie previously produced the Fast Times at Ridgemont High knockoff Hot Times at Montclair High (1989; with a down-and-out Troy Donahue from Shock ‘Em Dead) that we, at B&S, still haven’t seen after all these years. But if you were a fan of the USA Networks’ “Up All Night” weekends, you may have seen it; the out-of-print DVDs now sell for upwards of $150.00.

Reawakend is available on demand and on DVD from Wild Eye, who were kind enough to send us a review copy. You can learn more about the movie on its official Facebook page and also watch it on Amazon Prime.

Vibes (1988)

For my money, Cyndi Lauper was way ahead of Madonna before she took some time off. But such is the fickle world of pop music. One day, you’re she bopping with The Goonies and a few months later, you’re struggling for relevance. That said, judging by the crowds on the last tour Cyndi did — remember tours — she did just fine.

Between Follow That Bird, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and Dunston Checks In, director Ken Kwapis has done pretty well for himself too. Here, he places Lauper — thanks to a script by Babaloo Mandell and Lowell Ganz — into Romancing the Stone territory by way of ESP. She plays Sylvia Pickel, whose spirit guide Louise has guided her since falling off a ladder at the age of twelve.

Her opposite number is Jeff Goldblum’s Nick Deezy, who can tell the history of objects by touching them. They get along like oil and water at first, but come on. This is a 1988 movie that will surely have some romantic sparks before it’s all over.

This has Julian Sands as a potentially evil doctor, ancient aliens stealing psychic power, Peter Falk as the man who pays for the adventure and great character actors like Steve Buscemi and Van Dyke Parks in small roles.

Originally described as Romancing the Ghostbusters in the Temple of DoomVibes was going to originally pair Lauper with Dan Aykroyd. Now that I would have liked to have seen.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime or grab the new blu ray from Mill Creek.

Cry-Baby (1990)

Somehow, John Waters made the career switch of being infamous to being famous without losing any of his devoted cult audience. And while this movie wasn’t the hit that Hairspray was, to me, it’s closer to the spirit of what I love from his films.

Wade “Cry-Baby” Walker (Johnny Depp) leads a gang that includes his sister Pepper (Ricki Lake), Mona “Hatchet Face” Malnororwski (Kim McGuire), her man Milton (Darren E. Burrows) and Wanda Woodward (Traci Lords, a vision as always). Cry-Baby is able to cry one single tear while he sings, which drives the girls insane. He’s fallen for one of the squares, Allison (Amy Locane) and he’s ready to take on the world to prove his love.

Cry-Baby and Allison are both orphans. Her parents took seperate flights all the time just in case something happened. Well, it did. Both their plans crashed. Cry-Baby’s dad was the Alphabet Bomber and even thought our hero’s mother tried to stop him, they both went to the chair.

Polly Bergin (who my mother-in-law sold turtle oil for, a story which I really need to hear more about) plays Allison’s grandmother, while Cry-Baby’s guardians are played by Susan Tyrrell and Iggy Pop, which sounds like the perfect parental units.

This rockabilly Romeo and Juliet romance is enlivened by the casting that only Waters can get away with, finding roles for Troy Donahue, Mink Stole, Joe Dallesandro, Joey Heatherton, David Nelson and Patty Hearst.

While this was being filmed, Traci Lords was being investigated by the FBI. The cast and crew hid her and when she’d get upset, tell them all about the times they’d be in trouble with the law. That warms my heart.

Teenage Cruisers (1977)

Did you know that adult movies—the surest celluloid thing in the ’70s—could actually bomb on the adult grindhouse circuit? And this Johnny Legend-fronted flick is the only one that did.

Adult films in the ’70s were what slasher films were in the ’80s: a can’t miss investment for any pseudo-producer wanting to break into the movin’-picktures business (to sleaze some chicks). But by 1977, the era of “porn chic”—when adult grindhousers broke down the mainstream, tinsel town gates to transform Deep Throat and Behind the Green Door (both 1972) into box office bonanzas—was over. In fact, by 1977, Doors’ star Marilyn Chambers transitioned into the (somewhat) conventional with David Cronenberg’s early “body horror” oeuvre entry, Rabid. So wildman wrestler, actor, and musician Johnny Legend, along with his producing partner, adult film purveyor Tom Denucci (who produced a porn version of Rambo), were a little late to the party. Not a problem. Their film had a rock ‘n’ roll connection, so they might be able to turn it around into the next The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Oh, yeah. This is going to work.

Tim Curry as a lingerie-clad sweet transvesite was kitchy . . . while Johnny Legend as a foul-mouthed, bottom-of-the-barrel Wolfman Jack-redux was just plain tacky. But you have to give Legend credit for producing what no other adult film attempted: inject (nasty n’ tawdry) comedy and (’50s style) rock ‘n’ roll amid the Deep Green Door roughness. Remember our recent review of Kentucky Fried Movie? Okay, so that movie. Only not as funny. Then cut in clips from Deep Throat and Behind the Green Door.

No, wait. Take American Graffiti. Nix Ron Howard and cast adult film icon John Holmes (check out the fantastic Val Kilmer as Holmes in Wonderland). Then replace Wolfman Jack with Legend. Remember those ’50s teen-action car dramas we reviewed during our “Drive-In Friday: Fast & Furious ’50s Style” featurette? Okay, now spoof those films. Then cut in clips from Deep Throat and Behind the Green Doors.

Oh, yeah. This is going to work.

And you thought Harry Hope and Harry Tampa’s hicksploitation hybrids with disco and vampires (Smokey and the Judge and Nocturna) were a mess. . . . But what else would you expect from a man who put ‘70s pro-wrestler Fred Blassie and comedian Andy Kaufman into a room and ripped off Louis Malle’s My Dinner With Andre as My Breakfast with Blassie—in a Sambos, of all places. Well, John Howard meshed the slasher ’80s with porn in Spine, so maybe. . . .

No. This isn’t going to work. You’ve been warned.

Courtesy of Amazon

Although Legend billed Teenage Cruisers as the first adult-rated rock ‘n’ roll movie, the early ‘70s sex-flick The Mind of Dirty Young Sally (that found a second life on VHS in the ’80s via the Something Weird imprint) concerned with an 18-Wheeled pirate radio DJ treaded similar waters. (Yes, that radio sex romp bombed and yes . . . it’s awful, don’t bother seeking it out.)

Johnny Legend is the infamous L.A. disc jockey, Mambo Remus <eye roll>, who dispenses sexual advice to his listeners between the rock ‘n’ roll records. And as with American Graffiti, the Remus-patter strings together the exploits of Van Nuys’ car cruisin’ listeners, such as a sexually frustrated army veteran, a group of high school boys visiting a Hollywood whorehouse, two sex maniacs cruising the strip for boys, and an escaped psychotic-nymphomaniac prowling for victims. The film score features the rockabilly guitars of Billy Zoom (The Decline of Western Civilization) from the L.A. punk band X.

Johnny Legend was responsible for a slew of low-budgeted B-flicks in the early ‘70s, as well as issuing several albums of his own brand of sci-fi rockabilly tunes. In addition to working as the host/spokesman for a number of ’70s-reissue flicks on the Rhino and Something Weird imprints, Legend pops up from time-to-time in support roles in film such films as Bride of Re-Animator, Children of the Corn III, and Severed Ties. Legend also worked as an actor under the name of Martin Margulies—the most notable being (in grindhouse circles) the Ed Woodian juvenile delinquency potboiler, Pot, Parents and Police (1972).

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

Roseland (1971)

Fredric Hobbs made some strange movies, that’s for sure. Only three are available — this one, Godmonster of Indian Flats and Alabama’s Ghost — and none of them are alike other than the fact that all three are movies made by either someone who was an artist, borderline insane or probably both.

Adam (E. Kerrigan Prescott) is a rock star — his big song is “You Cannot Fart Around With Love” — who has become obsessed with the Hieronymus Bosch painting The Garden of Earthly Delights. It’s led to him becoming unable to perform sexually and, as such, he must steal pornography.

So he does what any sex addict shouldn’t and gets a job at a burlesque theater, which ends with him stripping down to just his panties, which leads to him going into the psych ward. He can’t pay for therapy, but he doesn’t have a singing career without going through it. But suddenly, he falls for a nurse and we have a way too long softcore scene between them.

That’s when things get weird.

Hieronymus Bosch, who is now black and played by Christopher Brooks (Alabama from Alabama’s Ghost), arrives for exposition that tells us that it’s really the future and our hero — or whatever he is to us — is the new Adam after a future war and the painting is really his future, once he escapes from the doctor, who is now spraying the world with deadly gas. It ends as it must. with Adam and Eve making love on a giant flower and repopulating the world.

Say what?

This movie is totally 1971, an art film that hasn’t made any more sense with age. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Every Hobbs experience has made me question my own sanity, which is more than you should expect for an exploitation film about the evils of pornography.