VIDEO ARCHIVES WEEK: The Foolkiller (1965)

VIDEO ARCHIVES NOTES: This movie was discussed on the January 31, 2023 episode of the Video Archives podcast and can be found on their site here.

Servando González directed one of the wildest films I’ve ever seen, El Escapulario, which somehow unites multiple genres and countries of cinema, as well as being folk horror by way of Mexican Catholicism.

Here, somehow, he’s in America and making an adaption of the novel of the same name by Helen Eustis. And, to quote Joe Dante, he’s making the most Night of the Hunter movie that is not Night of the Hunter.

Working from a script by Morton S. Fine (who wrote a lot of TV, as well as The Greek Tycoon) and David Friedkin (who worked with Fine on the show Frontier), González leads George Mellish (Edward Albert) through the desolate post-Civil War landscape of America. After being beat — again — by his foster parents, George has taken for the open dusty road, a place where he meets Dirty Jim (Henry Hull). Jim tells him of a gigantic axe-carrying killer called The Foolkiller who just may be Milo (Anthony Perkins), a man that he meets as he wanders Tennessee.

George thinks he deserves all the slaps and strikes his foster parents have given him. After all, they quote the Bible the whole time. But after hearing that his foolishness — playing with dandelions is nearly a capital offense — is so strong, he wonders if he’s destined to be a victim of the Foolkiller’s blade.

As our protagonist and Milo travel, we see that they both have scars from the figurative and literal wars they’ve fought. There’s also a tent revival which is awe-inspiring in its ferocity, as Reverend Spotts (Arnold Moss) snarls, spits and nearly explodes as he convinces George to make the altar call and drop to his knees before the Lord to stay out of the pits of Hell.

Mexican directors never got the chance to make American movies, but this is much closer to a regional film, shot in Knoxville, that somehow got Tony Perkins on board and gave González the opportunity to make a dark fairy tale of childhood, pain and belief.

VIDEO ARCHIVES WEEK: The Loved One (1965)

VIDEO ARCHIVES NOTES: This movie was discussed on the December 20, 2022 episode of the Video Archives podcast and can be found on their site here.

Based on The Loved One: An Anglo-American Tragedy — a novella, as Quentin Tarantino would remind us — by Evelyn Waugh and The American Way of Death by Jessica Mitford, this was directed by Tony Richardson from a script by Terry Southern and Christopher Isherwood.

Richardson was coming off Tom Jones, Southern Dr. Strangelove and Isherwood had just written one of his best-regarded novels, A Single Man

This is the point of success where creatives can do anything they want.

What they made is “The motion picture with something to offend everyone!”

Dennis Barlow (Robert Morse)  wins an airline ticket from England to America and decides to visit his uncle, Hollywood production staffer Sir Francis Hinsley (John Gielgud). After thirty years of service, he’s fired by his boss D.J. Jr. (Roddy McDowall) and hangs himself.

This is a comedy.

Dennis spends the inheritance his uncle left him on a fancy funeral at Whispering Glades cemetery, a place where he meets and falls in love with Aimee Thanatogenos (Anjanette Comer, The Baby), a cosmetic mortuary worker who was named for radio revivalist Aimee Semple McPherson and who is also the object of affection from the embalmer known as Mr. Joyboy (Rod Steiger).

Whispering Glades is overwhelming, the kind of place where Tab Hunter and Liberace are your tour guides, taking you through the gravestones. It’s owned by Reverend Wilbur Glenworthy (Jonathan Winters), who puts on a holy act but is really just a man who knows how to make money.

Meanwhile, Dennis works for Happier Hunting Grounds, which is owned by Wilbur’s brother Henry (also Winters). He wants to win over Aimee, but all he knows are stolen poems and he works a job at a place she finds sacrilegious. She also lives in a house in near-constant danger of falling off a cliff.

There’s also boy genius Gunther Fry (Paul Williams), who is sending the corpses of pets into space as his first astronauts. This kind of plan is something the Reverend wants to get in on, as he dreams of making more money running a retirement home and needs to get rid of all the bodies in the ground.

By the end, everything that Aimee believed in is a lie. She hooks herself up to an embalming machine as a result. Not even Dennis, her beloved boss, her guru (Lionel Stander) or Mr. Joyboy give her the solace or the advice that she is looking for. Her body is sent into space as Dennis flies home first class.

Waugh’s book came up when he visited Hollywood in 1947. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer offered him a six-figure deal for Brideshead Revisited, but he wanted control that the studio wouldn’t give him. While there, he became fascinated by the American funeral industry, which led to him writing an article about Forest Lawn cemetery — where this was filmed — and its founder Dr. Hubert Eaton. Then, he wrote The Loved One.

By all accounts, he hated that this movie was being made. He definitely died before he saw it, as he unexpectedly died three days after its premiere in London, which he did not attend. When this was shown for studio execs, many were so offended that they walked out in the middle.

That was what Richardson wanted.

However, he did not want to offend Waugh.

In his memoirs, Richardson claimed to be a great admirer of the writer and had been upset by how much he hated the movie. He said it was all over a misunderstanding, as he had been quoted as saying the novel was “thin and dated.” He further upset the author by hiring his literary rival Isherwood to work on the script.

I forgot so many more people in this, like Dana Andrews, Milton Berle, James Coburn, Barbara Nichols, Bernie Kopell, Joy Harmon and Jamie Farr. It’s just people upon people, kind of like It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Sadly, Ruth Gordon and Jayne Mansfield’s parts ended up cut from the film.

And I didn’t even mention Mr. Joyboy’s mother.

APRIL MOVIE THON 2: I Saw What You Did (1965)

April 1: New boss, same as the old boss — Start the month off with something that’s April Fool’s in nature.

I Saw What You Did had William Castle screaming on posters “This is a motion picture about UXORICIDE!” and installing seatbelts in theater seats. But he had the best gimmick of all: Joan Crawford.

Libby Mannering (Andi Garrett), her younger sister Tess (Sharyl Locke) and Kit Austin (Sara Lane) spend the day

Steve Marak (John Ireland), a man who had just murdered his wife Judith (Joyce Meadows) pramk phone call people. It’s all good fun saying, “I saw what you did” to random people before caller ID until you get Steve Marak (John Ireland). After all, he’s just killed his wife Judith (Joyce Meadows). He shares a party line — yes, back in the 1960s several people shared the same phone line — with Amy (Crawford), his neighbor who has always loved him. She hears the conversation as he invites the girls to his address as he plans to wipe them out.

In the confusion when the girls visit, Marak gets their home address, making this a really tense near home invasion movie. It’s also wild in how it can in some scenes be a comedy and in others intense.

Crawford did four days of work on this movie, making $50,000. Her doctors had to sign a statement saying that she was healthy enough to appear as she had just left the set of Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte. She’d next appear in DellaTrog and Berserk before appearing in some TV roles and retiring.

In 1988, there was a TV movie directed by Fred Walton that starred Robert and David Carradine as well as Tammy Lauren and Shawnee Smith.

JEAN ROLLIN-UARY: The Far Country (1965)

A couple becomes lost around the rubble, bricks and suddenly closing in maze of buildings in a place they have never been that becomes more confusing and also much more confining within just sixteen minutes of running time, but just like that idea of a second in the afterlife being thousands of years in our human experience, that sixteen minutes gives director and writer Jean Rollin time to stretch out and drug our your brain and create a rough pass at a movie that goes even further and gets so much more right, The Iron Rose.

Things would get better, as well as more obtuse and at the same time more layered. That said, the discordant jazz, black and white cinematography and idea that language doesn’t work any longer are powerful and sets us up for something that will grow and fester.

AMANDO DE OSSORIO WEEK: Hudson River Massacre (1965)

Sure, the Canadian Mounties are all using modern revolvers, but let’s just enjoy this pre-Italian Western made in Spain by future Blind Dead creator Amando de Ossorio, the story of the Hudson Bay area. All of this land was owned by the fur trading Hudson Bay Company who was opposed by the indigenous people of the region who found themselves working with French trappers to battle big business and the British empire. James Sullivan (Santiago Rivero) is the man the company hires to put a stop to these people and keep the money flowing. The rebels are led by Leo Limoux (Franco Fantasia) and the film’s hero, Victor DeFrois (George Martin), tries to stay out of things until Sullivan kills his brother.

That’s when a plan is made to kidnap Sullivan’s daughter Ann (Giulia Rubini) and, of course, she falls in love with Victor and he with her. Diana Lorys is also in this as a saloon girl and Pamela Tudor as Swa, Limoux’s lover.

Also known as Canadian Wilderness and Rebels In Canada, the actual Hudson River area is in New York, not Canada, but that’s OK. This is more swashbuckling adventure than Western, so we can forgive so much. The locations are great, the action is good, the leads are gorgeous and the end has about a hundred people get killed.

De Ossorio only made two Westerns and I kind of like them both!

You can watch this on Tubi.

Crack in the World (1965)

Andrew Marton was an expert at big movies, doing second unit on Ben Hur and Cleopatra. He directed this — from a script by Juliet Zimet and Jon Manchip White — in which some of the dumbest scientists ever screw everything up for everyone.

Project Inner Space in Tanganyika, Africa is the stupidest think tank ever. I mean, I get blowing up the moon, but testing Earth’s geothermal energy by drilling a very deep hole and dumping nukes down it? What did you think was going to happen? Well, just look at the title of this movie.

Two doctors are fighting over this idea: Dr. Stephen Sorenson (Dana Andrews) thinks everything will be fine. Dr. Ted Rampion (Kieron Moore) believes that, yes, this will put a crack in the world. Sorenson is dying from cancer, so I kind of think he’s rolling the dice.

The science in this is laugh-inspiring, as somehow a new moon can be launched into space and everyone is like, “Now it’s all fine. Look, a squirrel survived!”

Dana Andrews made eight movies in 1965. His son had died the year before and he was struggling with alcoholism, but man, somehow he still made eight movies. He’s also mentioned in “Science Fiction Double Feature” in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, along with his co-star Janette Scott.

You can watch this on Tubi.

MILL CREEK NIGHTMARE WORLDS: Evil Brain from Outer Space (1965)

About the Author: Paul Andolina is one of my favorite people to talk movies with. If you like his stuff, check out his site Wrestling with Film. This was previously a part of two other Mill Creek months, the first on November 15, 2019 and the second appearance on November 24, 2020.

Evil Brain from Outer Space is a science fiction film from 1965. It happens to be a couple of the Japanese Super Giant films that have been hacked up and spliced together to make one English dubbed film. It’s an odd movie about a group of aliens who send one of their own to earth to stop the brain of the evil mutant Balazar from destroying humanity. 

Special effects films and television shows are big in Japan and they have been since Godzilla roared onto screens. The Super Giant series from the late 50’s is a bunch of stand-alone films that are about the deeds of a man named Giant of Steel or as he is known in EBfOS Star Man. Star Man is a superhero basically and he wears some pretty nifty lycra outfits, he looks like a luchador that forgot his mask at home.

Evil Brain sees Star Man coming to earth to stop a few evil doctor/scientists who are in league with the evil extraterrestrial brain of Balazar. There is a hawk that hangs out with one of these doctors and a one-legged man who serves the other. There are some pretty awesome mutants who fight Star Man in this film as well. One looks like a chupacabra from the black lagoon and has strange tendril-like fingers and makes some weird noises, if I had seen this a child I would have been scared of him immediately. I actually said out loud, “WTF is that?” while watching the movie. He is by far my favorite part of the film. The other mutant is a long-haired demon lady who doesn’t quite know how to put on her lipstick. She jumps around and scratches the air while making demonic cat noises. There are also some generic henchmen mutants as well.

I would love to see the Super Giant serials in Japanese with English subtitles but I’m not sure they can live up to the insanity that is this film. It seems longer than it is because there is too much jibber-jabber. Honestly would love to see Star Man just mess up some mutants and forgo the plot altogether. If you like psychotronic films this is definitely the one for you. I have no idea what they were thinking when they pieced this bad boy together. I’d like to believe there was some acid involved and a whole lotta pot. It is in black and white but it still is a lot of fun. 

If you have any interest in the Tokasatsu trend in Japan and want to see an earlier effort you can’t get much better than Evil Brain from Outer Space.

ARROW BOX SET RELEASE: Gothic Fantastico: Lady Morgan’s Vengeance (1965)

Massimo Pupillo also made Bloody Pit of Horror and Terror-Creatures from the Grave, but this would be the last horror movie he’d make. He said, “I started in the horror genre because I wanted to get out of documentaries, I wanted to enter the commercial market. In Italy, when you do a certain type of film, you become labeled and you can’t do anything else. I remember one day, a producer called me to do a film only because the other producers told him he had to get either Mario Bava or me. When I understood this, I felt dead.”

Using the name Max Hunter and working from a script by Giovanni Grimaldi, this starts with Susan Elaine Blackhouse (Barbara Nelli) and Pierre Brissac (Michel Forain) discussing their plans to be married while riding in a boat. Then, a caped figure shoves Pierre into the water to her horror, which leaves her broken and soon married to Sir Harold Morgan (Paul Muller). It’s not all bad — she has a huge home and several servants, including the kind Josef. But when she comes back from a trip, there’s a new housekeeper named Lilian (Erika Blanc), her husband’s assistant Roger and a maid named Terry (Edith MacGoven). And then things get really weird, like her being locked into her room, Lillian’s voice speaking to her in the middle of the night and screams in the night.

Well, poor Susan gets gaslit so badly — and even hypnotized by Lillian on an intercom system — that she is walked right out a window to her death. The moment she dies, we find Pierre waking from his amnesia, her spirit calling to him. And now her ghost will use him to have her revenge on them all.

Horses galloping through fog? Erika Blanc creeping up dark steps holding a candle? Are conspiratorial killers all turning on one another? Yeah, this has it all and then some. And finally, thanks to Arrow, it looks gorgeous.

Along with a new video introduction by Italian film devotee Mark Thompson Ashworth, a limited edition 80-page book featuring new writing by Roberto Curti, Rob Talbot, Jerome Reuter, Rod Barnett and Kimberly Lindbergs, a fold-out double-sided poster and limited edition packaging with reversible sleeves featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Colin Murdoch, Lady Morgan’s Vengeance also has new commentary by author and critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, a new video essay by author and producer Kat Ellinger, a new interview with actress Erika Blanc, newly edited interviews with Paul Muller and Massimo Pupillo, a trailer and the complete original cineromanzo, published in Suspense in April 1971.

You can get this set from MVD.

ARROW BLU RAY RELEASE: A Fugitive From the Past (1965)

Director by Tomu Uchida (Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji, The Mad Fox), A Fugitive From the Past came in sixth place in Kinema Junpo magazine’s 1995 poll of the Top Japanese Films of the 20th Century, third in 1999 and sixteenth in their 2009 poll.

As a storm sends a passenger ferry to a watery grave claiming the lives of hundreds of people, three suspects race from a burning pawnshop. Detective Yumisaka (Junzaburo Ban) finds only a burned boat and two bodies which he knows came from the crime and not the sinking of the ferry. Meanwhile, Takichi Inukai (Rentaro Mikuni) and sex worker Yae (Sachiko Hidari) have a brief encounter that will remain in their minds for years.

The case grows cold until Yumisaka is called back by his successor Detective Ajimura (Ken Takakura).

Two new bodies have been found.

Based on Tsutomu Minakami’s Kiga KaikyoA Fugitive From the Past, the story shows how everyone’s lives have been changed by the robbery. Inukai has become a normal businessman named Tarumi. When Yae sees him on the street she thanks him; the money he gave her allowed her to escape her life. He fears she will tell someone even though she kept his secret despite intense police interrogation years before.

Yumisaka resigned from the force as the case obsessed him. It still does. So when Ajimura finds a new clue, his life may have some closure, if only they can solve the mystery.

This is a story of two people — a woman saved by a killer and a police detective destroyed by his crime — that are still looking for him for different reasons. It may be three hours long, but it’s a really intense crime procedural that can now finally be seen in its full beauty here in America.

The Arrow blu ray of this film — the first home video release outside of Japan — has the restored 183-minute-long cut of the film, along with an introduction by writer and curator Jasper Sharp, scene-specific commentaries from leading Japanese film scholars Aaron Gerow, Irene González-López, Erik Homenick, Earl Jackson, Daisuke Miyao and Alexander Zahlten, the original theatrical trailer, an image gallery, a Tomu Uchida filmography, a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Tony Stella and a first pressing limited edition collector’s booklet that has writing on the film by David Baldwin and Inuhiko Yomota. You can buy it from MVD.

The Beast from the Beginning of Time (1965)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A.C. Nicholas, who has a sketchy background and hails from parts unknown in Western Pennsylvania, was once a drive-in theater projectionist and disk jockey, Currently, in addition to being a writer, editor, podcaster, and voice-over artist, he contributes to Drive-In Asylum. His first article, “Grindhouse Memories Across the U.S.A.,” was published in issue #23. He’s also written “I Was a Teenage Drive-in Projectionist” and “Emanuelle in Disney World and Other Weird Tales of a Trash Film Lover” for upcoming issues.

I’ll admit it. I have a soft spot for regional horror films. After all, some of the all-time masterpieces came from places other than Hollywood: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (Bastrop and Round Rock, Texas), Night of the Living Dead (Pittsburgh, of course), and Carnival of Souls (Lawrence, Kansas). And there were oddball regional gems like Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood (Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey Pine Barrens), Horror High (Irving, Texas), and Last House on Dead End Street (State University of New York at Oneonta). But until recently, I never knew Wichita, Kansas, had its own 1960s entry in the regional horror market.

When reading about exploitation films, you often see the expression “it had a checkered distribution history” bandied about. You know, that’s the description of an exploitation film that passed from fly-by-night distributor to fly-by-night distributor with multiple title changes along the way before landing in obscurity in the home video market. While I’ve kept up with regional horror films for over 50 years, I’d never heard of The Beast from the Beginning of Time because it didn’t even have a checkered distribution history. It had no distribution history. Although completed in 1965, it was never publicly shown until 1981. Most of what I learned about it, I gleaned from an online copy of a newspaper article in The Wichita Eagle-Beacon dated October 23, 1981.

You see, back in 1965, one Tom Leahy was the KARD-TV Channel 3 in Wichita horror host of Nightmare (he was called, imaginatively enough, “The Host”), as well as Major Astro, beloved host of a kids’ show. (He sounds a lot like the Wichita version of Bill Cardille, who for years hosted Pittsburgh’s Chiller Theater, along with other shows like The 6 O’Clock Hop and Studio Wrestling). One day, Leahy decided it would be cool to make his own horror movie. So using his station’s staff and facilities and about $10,000, he wrote, directed and starred in The Beast from the Beginning of Time.

The film, about rival archeologists uncovering the remains of a preserved prehistoric man who comes back to life and goes on a killing spree, was filmed in black-and-white with interiors shot at the TV station and at a local farm standing in for the archeological dig. It wound up barely feature length at 58 minutes and looks and sounds for all the world like a 1960s shot-on-16mm remote news report. Even with that short running, it’s a dull affair, certainly no lost gem, enlivened only by scenes of gore that were somewhat surprising for the time. If it had been released back in the day, though, it probably would’ve caused at least a minor sensation among the denizens of Wichita, who would’ve enjoyed spotting their favorite local broadcasters in a theatrical film.

But alas, that was not meant to be. The film was never exhibited and forgotten until KARD unearthed it for a late-night broadcast as a Halloween special on October 30, 1981. The station even got NBC’s resident critic at the time, Gene Shalit (he of the bushy hair and mustache and pithy quip), to give it a bad review in an ill-fated attempt to enhance its camp appeal. Leahy, recognizing the poor quality of his film, apparently thought he could position it as a local cult item, like The Rocky Horror Picture Show. But alas, that also was not meant to be.

And thus, the history of The Beast from the Beginning of Time proved to be more interesting than the film itself. But you gotta love the chutzpah of those scrappy folks from Wichita. Regional filmmaking forever!

You can catch the Beast in all his regional glory on Tubi.