America As Seen By A Frenchman (1960)

Known in France as L’Amérique Insolite, or Unusual America, this film is all about the 18 month journey that Francois Reichenbach, who shot the video for Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot’s “Bonnie and Clyde” as well as parts of F for Fake) took across America.

With a script by Chris Marker and narration by Jean Cocteau and June Richmond (Paul Klinger did the German version), this is a playful look at America before the many changes that the 60’s would bring. From prison rodeos to Miss America, Disneyland to a town of twins, this film captures the eccentric side of America, including a shocking moment where a rider continually pushes a horse to greater heights, diving into a small pool of water. While this image is upsetting, the dialogue juxtaposed with it is uplifting: “The golden age is the only time when magic is called by its proper name. It’s the only time when you need to believe in miracles. When pigeons fly, horses fly. Angels fly. Man flies.”

While this film was released two years before Mondo Cane, make no mistake. It is a mondo film. That said, this is the gentle side of mondo, a movie given to the celebrations of small dogs at play on Fire Island. It’s utterly charming.

This has just been released by Arrow Video with new English subtitles and a 1080p presentation. I totally didn’t expect to fall in love with this film, but I did. You can get it right here.

DISCLAIMER: This was sent to us by Arrow Video.

The Orientals (1960)

Romolo Marcellini was all over the mondo fad, creating films like Taboos of the World and Macabro. Here, his camera explores the emancipation of women in the Far East.

That said — none of these stories are true, all shot like a mondo but obviously scripted stories.

Akiko Wakabayashi — Aki from You Only Live Twice — and famous Malaysian actress Lakshmi appear, after all.

There’s also a Thai kickboxer who gets hooked on opium and a monkey that can’t stop itching. I’m making it all sounds way better than it is. Sorry.

You can watch this as a bonus feature on Severin’s Mondo Balordo blu ray.

The Girl In Lover’s Lane (1960)

Also known as The Young and the Damned, this is the story of two drifters: Danny (Lowell Brown, High School Caesar), a rich kid who has run away from home, and “Big Stupid” Bix (Brett Halsey, Touch of DeathThe Devil’s Honey), a long-time hobo who is mentoring the former.

Bix begins to make lovey eyes with an innocent waitress named Carrie (Joyce Meadows, I Saw What You Did), who’s already dealing with the creepy affections of Jesse (Jack Elam). Yeah, so creepy that he eventually murders her.

This film’s writer, Jo Heims, would later write Double Trouble for Elvis, the story for Dirty Harry and Play Misty for Me. Its director, Charles R. Rondeau, also made The Devil’s Partner and the fact that I can remember than without the internet both makes me happy and somewhat sad that I know this much about junk movies instead of something important that can actually help the world.

You can watch this — as riffed by Mystery Science Theater 3000 — on Tubi. You can also download it on the Internet Archive.

The Sinister Urge (1960)

For its time, The Sinister Urge was pornography. Today, it could probably play on normal television.

In 1959, Ed Wood finished writing The Racket Queen and got producer Roy Reid of Headliner Productions to cough up the dough. Obviously, Ed was influenced by Psycho, just like every exploitation filmmaker at the time.

If you’ve watched more than one or two or, like me, nearly every Ed Wood film, you’ll see a fight scene that Wood had shot for his unfinished project Hellborn, AKA Rock and Roll Hell. Ed Wood was an early believer in being green, as he recycled that very same scene for Night of the Ghouls.

This would be the last film that Wood would make with William C. Thompson as his cinematographer, who some sources say was colorblind and others say only had one eye. Regardless of how many working eyes he had, they weren’t working too well so he retired.

The sleazy filmmaker, Johnny Ryde, is pretty much Wood just writing himself into a film. In his office, you’ll see posters for Jail Bait, Bride of the Monster, The Violent Years and Plan 9 from Outer Space. There’s a really telling line here, as Ryde yells, “I look at this slush, and I try to remember, at one time, I made good movies.” That said, Wood never made good movies. He made interesting ones. But man, I don’t know if he ever made a good movie. Yet, I love him and his work still.

This movie is about the “Mary Smiths” from “Everywhere, USA” who graduate at the top of their class, were great in the school play, then come on out to Hollywood hoping to be discovered yet are afraid to go back home a failure. Throw in “The Syndicate” and some murder and well, we have an Ed Wood movie.

This $20,000 wonder was the last mainstream film Wood would make. He did have an idea of a sequel that he called The Peeper, but it never happened. After here, it was all adult films. The dirty picture racket, as they say. Movies like Take It Out in TradeNecromania and The Young Marrieds. And yes, you just know I’ll get to those soon.

You can also see this movie on an episode of Mystery Science Theater (season 6, episode 13) after the short educational film Keeping Clean and Neat. Obviously, with the name of his 2001 solo album, Rob Zombie is also a fan of this movie.

PURE TERROR MONTH: The Tell-Tale Heart (1960)

Film historians Steve Chibnall and Brian McFarlane have selected this movie as one of the 15 most meritorious British B films made between World War II and 1970. That has to be worth something, correct?

Director Ernest Morris and writer Brian Clemens worked together on several films, including Operation MurderOn the RunThe BetrayalThree Sundays to Live and A Woman of Mystery amongst others. Clemens would go on to write for The Avengers, as well as And Soon the DarknessDr. Jekyll & Sister HydeCaptain Kronos Vampire Hunter and creating the Thriller TV series.

Here, they are loosely adapting Edgar Allan Poe. Have you ever noticed that nearly every time I mention someone is making a Poe movie that it’s a loose adaption?

Edgar Marsh (Laurence Payne, Vampire Circus) is a shy man who is obsessed with erotica, which in 1960 made him a dangerous maniac instead of someone with an internet connection. He notices Betty Clare (Adrienne Corri, A Clockwork Orange) getting undressed and becomes overly obsessed by her, planning their future long before she’s even interested.

What she is interested in is his friend Carl Loomis, who she hooks up with after Edgar introduces them. He watches them together and then kills his friend with a poker, then buries him in his piano room. Before you can say “loosely adapted from an Edgar Allan Poe story,” he’s hearing the tell-tale heartbeat.

It’s low budget, but not a bad film. It feels very much like a TV production, which makes sense, because it was made by those that would go on to mainly work in TV.

If you don’t have the Pure Terror set — and you should — you can also watch this on Amazon Prime.

PURE TERROR MONTH: The Amazing Transparent Man (1960)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Craig Edwards is an award-winning blogger as well as a self-proclaimed Media Guy and a consumer of pop culture for a lot of years. He also writes a great blog called Let’s Get Out of Here

 

Famed low budget director Edgar G. Ulmer helms this science fiction flick which has apparently fallen into the public domain, which resulted in it being available on countless bargain VHS tapes and now in untold numbers of cheapie DVD sets, much like the very one we’re shining the spotlight on.

Former Army guy Krenner (James Griffith), plans to conquer the world with his soon-to-be army of invisible thugs and he is willing to do anything to make that happen. Krenner forces Dr. Ulof (Ivan Trisault) to work to perfect the invisibility machine Ulof invented. He keeps Ulof’s daughter, Maria (Carmel Daniel) as a hostage with the help of his henchman, Julian (Red Morgan). Ulof needs radioactive elements to improve the invisibility machine which are understandably rare and kept under guard in government facilities. Krenner busts Joey Faust (Douglas Kennedy) out of prison to steal the materials he needs. Faust pulls the robberies using the invisibility power – but chaffs working for the dictatorial Krenner. Soon everyone in the house, including Krenner’s girlfriend Laura (Marguerite Chapman) is working some kind of double cross or secret agenda; and it’s readily apparent that no one is particularly likable – so who’s going to be the treacherous victor?

While it’s obviously a very low budget talkfest, there’s just SOMETHING about Edgar G. Ulmer’s movies that interest me. Consequently, I like this little dud which is usually touted as one of the worst of all time. Ulmer only made two more movies before retiring; but his touch is still evident all over this. Sure, it’s low-budget; it’s static; it’s talky – but I’ve seen it now like three times, and I still enjoy it.

I can’t defend the movie – but to me this works – it’s not an epic of production values and amazing effects – though there are a few sprinkled in – but it works as the little sci-fi talkfest it is. If it sounds at all interesting it is worth a look and it’s certainly not hard to find.

CHILLING CLASSICS MONTH: Body in the Web (1960)

Also known as Ein Toter Hing im Netz or A Corpse Hung in the Web, this West German horror film is all about Gary, a nightclub manager who invites several pretty ladies to strip dance in Singapore. They crash land on the way, make it to an island and find a giant spider web. Soon, Gary is bitten by the spider and becomes a mutant.

First released here as an adults’ only nudie cutie called It’s Hot in Paradise, it was re-released without nudity as Horrors of Spider Island. Your enjoyment of this film depends on how much you like watching women wrestle one another and pull hair.

Maybe just look at the awesome German poster and choose not to watch it. The things I do for you people, staying awake and avoiding the small death of sleep in order to watch dubbed non-sexy sex movies.

If you have to see this, it’s on Amazon Prime.

2018 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 13: Black Sunday (1960)

Day 13 of the Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge is And on the 13th Day There Was Only Black and White. Greyscale is also acceptable. There was no choice for me other than the master’s finest work: Mario Bava’s seminal Black Sunday.

This was Bava’s directorial debut — although he had already directed several scenes without credit in other films. By 1960’s standards, this is a pretty gory film, leading to it being banned in the UK and chopped up by its US distributor American International Pictures.

In the 1600’s, the witch Asa Vajda (Barbara Steele, creating her legacy as the horror female supreme) and her lover Javuto are put to death by her brother. Before she is burned at the stake and has a metal mask hammered to her face, she curses their entire family.

Several centuries later, Dr. Thomas Kruvajan and his assistant, Dr. Andre Gorobec (John Richardson, Frankenstein ’80) ae traveling to a medical conference when their carriage breaks down. Of course, they’re in a horror movie, so they wander into an ancient crypt and release Asa from her death mask and getting blood all over her face.

That’s when they meet her descendent Katia (also Steele), whose family lives in the haunted castle that of the Vajdas. Gorobec instantly falls for her and really, can you blame him?

All hell literally breaks loose, with Asa and Javuto coming back from the dead, possessing Dr. Kruvajan and concocting a plan to make Asa immortal by stealing Katia’s youth. Can good triumph against evil? Can you kill a vampire by stabbing wood into its eye socket? Which one is hotter, good or evil Barbara Steele?

A lover of Russian fantasy and horror, Bava intended this film to be an adaption of Nikolai Gogol’s 1835 horror story “Viy.” However, the resulting script owes more to Universal Studios-style gothic horror. AIP cut or shortened the branding scene, blood spraying from the mask after it was hammered into Asa’s face, the eyeball impaling and the flesh burning off Vajda’s head in the fireplace. And in the Italian version, Asa and Javutich are brother and sister in an incestuous relationship.

Black Sunday has left quite an impression on fans and filmmakers alike. Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula contains several shot-for-shot homages, as does Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow. And Richard Donner based the cemetery scene in The Omen on the moment when Barbara Steele appears with her hounds.

For a director who is so well known for his work in color, Bava has just as much skill in black and white. The sets were actually created in monochrome, with no color, to add to the dark mood.

My favorite scene in the film is when Bava creates a split screen effect where Steele’s two roles come together, as Asa intones, “You did not know that you were born for this moment. You did not know that your life had been consecrated to me by Satan. But you sensed it, didn’t you? You sensed it… That’s why my portrait was such a temptation to you, while frightened you. You felt like your life and your body were mine. You felt like me because you were destined to become me… a useless body without life.”

You can watch this for free with an Amazon Prime subscription or on Shudder.