Writers wanted!

Over the next few weeks, we’ll have several theme weeks. If you’re reading this and wondered, “I’d sure like to learn how to write for B&S About Movies,” this is your chance.

There are no rules for length and few for content other than your work should be original. Generally, I like to have articles in by a week before when they run, but I’m always willing to make exceptions.

Here are the theme weeks we have coming up!

  • August 9-15: Jayne Mansfield
  • August 16-22: Italian Westerns
  • August 23-29: Werewolves
  • August 30-September 5: 90s and 2000s Horror
  • September 6-12: Vampires
  • September 13-19: Turkish movies
  • September 20-26: Rock and Roll part 2 (more rock and roll movies, hold the Gary Glitter)
  • September 27-30: No theme

And don’t forget our November Mill Creek blowout of their 50-film DVD set. The films are going fast! Help us out with a review, will ya? All the deets are HERE.

And don’t forget about our Drive-In Friday feature that we post every week at 11 AM. All the deets are HERE.

If you’d like to be part of the site, comment here or email us at bandsaboutmovies@gmail.com

Drive In Friday Advert

The Skulls (2000)

You know when a conspiracy theory — like Yale University’s Skull and Bones student society — becomes true? When Hollywood makes a movie about it. Here’s the real conspiracy. This movie is pretty much the 1970 made-for-TV movie The Brotherhood of the Bell. That said, this is where Rob Cohen met Paul Walker, so that’s how this movie has ended up in the middle of our The Fast and the Furious theme week.

Walker is Caleb Mandrake, a name that only exists in movies, and Joshua Jackson is Luke McNamara. They’re the two newest members of The Skulls, which prepares its members through war. It barely takes any time for this alignment to cause Luke’s best friend Will (Hill Harper, CSI: NY) to stop talking to him. But hey — he feels like he needs an edge to stay with his rich girlfriend Chloe (Leslie Bibb).

Speaking of CSI, William Petersen plays the leader of the inner circle and Caleb’s dad is played by Craig T. Nelson. They’re powerful because of the group and will crush anyone who gets in their way.

Another conspiracy: this movie was shot in Toronto and not Yale. Imagine being from that city and seeing your landmarks all over this movie and someone saying, “No, that’s really America.”

They made a whole bunch more of these — well, OK, two more — that went direct to video. Rob Cohen went to Harvard, so he was probably in a group just like this that allowed him to keep making films after  xXx and Stealth.

Someone on IMDB noticed this — and I thought it was funny — that every Skull gets a watch for their left hand. Which means they are all right handed. At least they don’t show them masturbating in a coffin while other members watch. Not that I know tons of Skull and Bones stories or anything.

SAVAGE CINEMA: Death Machines (1976)

The Savage Cinema set has motorcycles. It has stock cars. It has dynamite coffins. And now, it has death machines. The poster for this movie has always fascinated me and now the time has finally come to see if it lives up to the insane promise of the painting that hawked its wares.

Madame Lee has gathered three martial arts masters, now and forever known as White Death Machine (Ron Marchini, who is also in Omega Cop and Karate Cop), Asian Death Match (Michael Chong, Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects) and Black Death Machine (Joshua Johnson, The Weapons of Death) after she injects them with a mysterious formula that makes them her commandable karate fighting soldiers.

There’s a green-faced cop named Captain Green. A good guy who loses his hand, gets his ass kicked in a bar fight and still gets the girl. Bikers who bother zombie killers when they just want to eat burgers and talk to old men about God. A mysterious mastermind in the shadows. Dudes getting thrown off buildings. And a distributor — yes, our friends at Crown International Pictures — that wanted a science fiction angle for a movie about evil martial artists shot in Stockton, CA.

I have no idea what was in that zombie juice, but it makes street fighters impervious to bullets. This was all a passion project of Paul Kyriazi, who also made Ninja Busters. There’s also a cop named Lt. Clay Forrester, who is no relation to Gene Barry or Trace Beaulieu.

This movie doesn’t make any sense and you’re either going to be bored into oblivion by it or love it like the lover who broke your sixteen-year-old heart and you never quite got over her. There is no in-between.

If you want to see it for yourself, you can do no better than the blu ray release that Vinegar Syndrome has put out. Freshly restored in 4k from its original Techniscope camera negative and featuring brand new interviews with its director and stars? I never thought I’d see the day. You can also check this out on Amazon Prime.

Fast and Furious (2009)

Finally, eight years after The Fast and The Furious we get a direct sequel. This time, Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) must work together again to avenge the murder of Toretto’s lover Letty Ortiz (Rodriguez) and apprehend drug lord Arturo Braga (John Ortiz).

It’s rare that a series of movies finally finds itself in the fourth installment, much less gets that many chances. But here you go — these movies really start becoming beloved right here.

Sung Kang shows up as Han Lue, Dominic’s right-hand man, bridging the last Japanese side of the franchise, while also introducing Gal Gadot as Gisele Yashar, a liaison for the evil Braga. Laz Alonso also shows up as Fenix Calderon, Braga’s right-hand man who murders Letty and sets this whole movie’s story arc in motion.

This movie paved the way — pardon the road pun — for the other movies in this series. In fact, it outgrossed The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift in its first weekend.

Of course, Letty wouldn’t stay gone long. But we’ll get to that soon enough.

SAVAGE CINEMA: The Sidehackers (1969)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Back when COVID-19 felt like a thing that may not last all that long, circa March 7, 2020, we talked about this movie. It’s in the Savage Cinema set, so now it’s back. I still have no idea what a sidehacker is.

What the hell is a sidehacker?

It’s racing motorcycles with sidehacks, which is a sidecar with a rail but no sidewalls or seat. As the bikes race, the passenger rides and tilts around curves. Sidehacking is also known as sidecarcross or sidecar motocross racing. The fact that it has a movie made about it doesn’t astound me. After all, I’ve watched movies about arm wrestling (Over the TopHands of Steel) and even games that don’t really exist like BASKetball and The Game from The Blood of Heroes.

Surely I can make it through a movie about side hacking, I thought. But man — what a ride. I nearly wiped out.

Ross Hagen, who was in SupercockThe Devil’s Eight and Alienator (amongst many others), plays Rommel, who is a bike mechanic who dreams of sidehacking stardom. That’s a thing, I guess.

He runs into JC (Michael Pataki!), another sidehacker who is abusive to everyone in his gang, including his girl Paisely, who promptly tries to seduce our hero. Or protagonist. Or guy we’re supposed to get behind. He turns her down, JC beats her up and blames Rommel and then the gang all descends on our man and his lady Rita (Diane McBain, Wicked Wicked).

Robert Tessler, a stuntman who formed Stunts Unlimited with Hal Needham, is in this, as is the writer of the film Tony Huston (he also would write The Hellcats) and Hoke Howell (Humanoids from the Deep).

This was directed by former Broadway dancer — and husband of Goldie Hawn — Gus Trikonis, who also brought The EvilMoonshine County ExpressNashville GirlTake This Job and Shove It and Supercock to the big screen.

It ends as all biker movies must, with the hero killed for no good reason. Ah 1969, when the kids had given up on life.

You can watch this with help from Mystery Science Theater 3000 on Amazon Prime and Tubi.

SAVAGE CINEMA: Little Laura and Big John (1973)

I have no idea why this is on the Savage Cinema set from Mill Creek, but man, when has anything these box sets have on them make any narrative sense? “We have all these Crown International movies and some maniac, somewhere, someday, is making a Letterboxd list about these movies no one other than he cares about!” I love you, Mill Creek. I do.

Back in 1929, John Ashley murdered a Seminole trapper named Desoto Tiger and dumped him in the site of what would someday be the Hoover Dike. Days later, in Miami, he sold some of those furs and got caught, but was repeatedly allowed to escape custody. So yeah, he was the first white man jailed for killing a Native American. But no one took it seriously and, go figure, he did a whole bunch of others crimes, including piracy on a British colony in the 1920’s, of all things. He also joined with Laura Upthegrove to become white trash heroes, defying banks and the government until he was jailed.

Their story gets even crazier, as Upthegrove married a member of Ashley’s gang named Joe Tracy in order to avoid testifying in his trial for murdering a taxi driver. Ashley then planned to rush the jail, act like he was saving Tracy and then planned to kill him in a fit of jealousy. So she todl the law, who killed everyone involved after handcuffing them and pretty much executing them in a move that was completely against the law.

Upthegrove hid out for a few years until she got in an argument with a man trying to buy moonshine from her. She ended up drinkinhg Lysol and dying. Her mother decided that she was better off dead, so she never called for help.

Fabian Forte plays John and Karen Black plays Laura, so whoever casted this movie knows my heart. Ross Kananga, who is also Seminole, plays Tiger. Kanaga is the man who did the stunt where James Bond jumps over the alligators in Live and Let Die, getting 193 stitches before filing was done. He’s also where Yaphet Kotto’s character gets his name from. Also, Paul Gleason from The Breakfast Club, one of film’s greatest jerks, is the sheriff.

Luke Moberly, who was in the art department for Sometimes Aunt Martha Does Dreadful Things, wrote and directed this. It was the only film he’d ever direct. It was made in 1969 and didn’t come out for four years. It also has a debt to 1967’s Bonnie and Clyde, but you probably figured on that.

The Fast and the Furious (1954)

Before “Racer X,” the 1998 Vibe magazine article that detailed an illegal street racing circuit operating within New York City . . . before Vin Diesel and Paul Walker . . . there was this tale of romance and cops-on-the-case originally known as Crashout, written by Roger Corman.

In a deal similar to the one Corman made with Ron Howard years later on Grand Theft Auto: John Ireland agreed to star only if he could direct. And in nine days on a budget of $50,000, Ireland (The Shape of Things to Come, Incubus) directed his first feature film, Corman had his second producer’s credit (after Monster from the Ocean Floor), and the newly-incorporated American Releasing Corporation (which would become American International Pictures) had their first feature film. For Ireland’s co-star, Corman was able to get a down-and-out Dorothy Malone, who was without talent representation at the time, for an affordable price.

In the pages of his 1990 biography, How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime, Roger Corman states that producer Neal H. Moritz and Universal Pictures approached him to licensed the title for 2001’s The Fast and the Furious after Moritz learned of Corman’s 1954 film while watching a documentary about American International Pictures. At the time, Moritz toyed with the idea of retaining the Racer X title from the Vibe article, along with the titles of Race Wars and Street Wars. One of Moritz’s rejected titles, Redline, was later used by one of the many F&F rip-offs, a 2007 film starring Tim Matheson and Eddie Griffin. (And another of the knockoffs, 2008’s Street Racer from Asylum Studios, sounds suspiciously like a portmanteau of Mortiz’s others rejected titles.) The deal that got it done: Moritz could have Corman’s title-by-trade: all he had to do was give Corman some stock footage to use in his later productions.

Universal welcomed Corman into the fold again when he got the idea to make his own sequel to 1975’s Death Race 2000. The idea came to fruition when an Italian journalist interviewing Corman commented The Hunger Games shared similar social and political themes explored in Death Race 2000. So Corman reached out to Universal, who produced Paul W. S. Anderson’s 2008 remake, with a plan to bring back the dark, sociopolitical satire of the original — and the killing of pedestrians. Universal was on board: the studio co-produced the film that became Death Race 2050 with Corman’s New World for the home video streaming market.

As you watch Corman’s ’54 car racing drama, you’ll notice the plot bears a striking resemblance to the glut of low-budget indie knockoffs made in the wake of F&F 2001’s success: We have another ne’er-do-well charged with a murder he did not commit and his salvation lies on the quarter mile.

Broken out of jail and on the run, someone recognizes Frank Webster (John Ireland) in a small, roadside coffee shop. To facilitate his escape, he kidnaps a customer, Connie (Dorothy Malone), and hits the road in her white Jaguar sports car. To elude police, and courtesy of Connie’s sleek ride, Frank easily slips into a cross-border sports car race into Mexico. Cops, guns, crashes . . . and love, ensues.

You have a couple of streaming choices. You can watch this on TubiTV or on You Tube HERE and HERE. The quality on all three uploads is about the same, but the Tubi upload carries ads. You can also watch it over on the Internet Archive, which is turning out to be a great repository for hard-to-find and classic films.

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

Gone In 60 Seconds (2000)

Much like how The Fast and The Furious would take the familiar title of a past film and make something new, this movie is a loose remake of the 1974 H.B. Halicki movie. Also, much like the Paul Walker/Vin Diesel film, critics absolutely hated this movie, which cried all the way to nearly tripling its production costs at the box office.

It has something that every single The Fast and the Furious movie lacks: Nicolas Cage as Randall “Memphis” Raines.

Memphis has the job of stealing fifty luxury cars for Raymond Calitri (Christopher Eccleston, who played both Dr. Who and Destro). He wanted out of this life, but his moron brother Kip (noted film idiot Giovanni Ribisi) screwed up and will get killed if his big brother doesn’t fix things.

Along with his mentor Otto Halliwell (Robert Duvall), Memphis assembles his crew again, including Donny Astricky (Chi McBride), Sphinx (former football star Vinnie Jones) and Sara “Sway” Wayland (Angelina Jolie, probably the main reason other than Cage to watch this movie).

I love that the cop, Detective Roland Castlebeck, is played by Delroy Lindo. That guy should be in more movies. Plus you get Scott Caan, James Duval from Gregg Araki’s movies, Timothy Olyphant, Grace Zabriskie (Sarah Palmer!), Trevor Goddard (Kano!), Mater P (Hootie hoo!) and John Carroll Lynch, who should also be in more movies.

Remember up top when I said this was a success? The truth is that its high production and marketing cost lost Disney around $90 million, who used Hollywood math to write it off as a $212 million loss. I guess that explains why there was no sequel.

Director Dominick Sena made music videos for everyone from E.G. Daily (“Sat It Say It”), Peter Cetera and Amy Grant (“The Next Time I Fall In Love”) and Richard Marx (“Don’t Mean Nothing”, “Should’ve Known Better”) to Janet Jackson (“Rhythm Nation”, “If”, “Miss You Much”, “Come Back to Me” and “The Pleasure Principle”) and Pia Zadora (“Heartbeat of Love”) before making movies like KaliforniaSwordfish and Season of the Witch, which reunited him with Cage.

SAVAGE CINEMA: Best Friends (1975)

Mill Creek box sets are among my favorite things in life, as otherwise, I’d never discover so many movies. However, for every Cathy’s Curse, Welcome to Blood City or The Alpha Incident there is a Best Friends. Such is life. Savage Cinema box set, you so crazy.

Jesse (Richard Hatch, Battlestar Galactica) is the mature one. Pat (Doug Chapin, Where Have All the People Gone) is the goofy one. Together with their girls, Kathy (Susanne Benton, A Boy and His Dog) and Jo Ella (Ann Noland, Satan’s School for Girls), they decide to go on a RV trip across the country. For everyone that has told me what a good idea that sounds like, I point them to movies like this. Actually, have any movies about being on a Winnebago trip ever gone well?

Director Noel Nosseck made the move from movies like this into TV movies like this. Good for him. As for this movie, well, this movie promises some drive-in scumbag narrative and delivers a relationship film. No matter what, I always end up judging movies by their cover.

You can watch this on YouTube, if you haven’t bought the set.

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)

Justin Lin comes into the franchise here and, well, he has none of the original cast members coming back. So what do you do? Concentrate on the cars. Also, the chronological history of the story would change from here on out, with installments until 2015’s Furious 7 being set between 2 Fast 2 Furious and this movie.

Yes, you’d be shocked how confusing — and deep — these movies go. I watched all of them within a day or two, so I’m still amazed how we go from street gangs to the family basically being the G.I. Joe team.

High school student Sean Boswell keeps getting arrested for street racing, so he is sent to live in Japan with his father. There, he discovers, well, street racing. Are you surprised? There he meets Twinkie (Bow Wow), who gets him in and he starts doing that Tokyo Drift, as they say.

Sung Kang, who plays Han Lue, originated that role in Lin’s movie Better Luck Tomorrow. He’d return in Fast & Furious, Fast Five, Fast & Furious 6 and Furious 7, as well as the short film Los Bandoleros, all set between the events of Better Luck Tomorrow and this movie. Han’s explosive car crash was revisited in post-credits scene of Fast & Furious 6, which introduced Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw.

Boswell would return in Furious 7, while he, Kang and Twinkie will all be back for F9. How is Kang still alive? We’ll see.

Following poor test screenings, Vin Diesel agreed to make a cameo as Dom in exchange for Universal’s ownership to the rights of the Riddick series and character. No money exchanged hands. I’m always amazed at how canny Diesel is. This allowed him to make 2013’s Riddick as an independent film. Also, of course Dom won in the race against Boswell. Come on.