ANOTHER HOLE IN THE HEAD FILM FESTIVAL 2022: Night of the Living Dead (1968)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This originally was on the site on March 15, 2021.

It’s back because the Another Hole In the Head film festival will be playing it on Friday Dec 2nd, at 7:30 pm at the Roxie Cinema (3117 16th Street, San Francisco).

That said, it’s not just a regulae screening. It’s the world premiere performance of Sleepbomb’s new score for George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead! Experience the terror and tension of the original zombie film that started it all with Sleepbomb’s unique blend of doomy drones and electronics filling the air. You’ll never see the film the same way again! Tickets are $25 and available here.

For almost two decades, Sleepbomb has been bringing innovative and exciting new scores for a wide variety of genre films. Atmospheric and heavy, ranging from doom and drone to electronic textures, Sleepbomb’s scores have re-contextualized films like NosferatuThe Cabinet of Dr. CaligariConan the Barbarian and Metropolis for mesmerized audiences in the Bay Area and beyond. Sleepbomb returns to Another Hole in the Head for the second time after their sold out Conan performance in 2019. 

I’ve debated writing about this film for the site for a long time. It’s beyond a seminal movie and it’s also from right where we call home. There’s probably no modern horror movie as important as this one for so many reasons and so many films have their inspiration right here.

I’ve spent a lifetime in advertising, so I can see how making television commercials and industrial films as part of The Latent Image pushed George Romero, John Russo and Russell Streiner to make their own movie.

And horror movies? Horror movies sell.

Shot between June and December 1967 in Evans City with friends, relatives, local actors and interested locals, this movie was made for around $114,000 but looks like so much more. The crew had been through the ringer — they did the original Calgon “Ancient Chinese Secret” commercial — and they knew how to get the most out of every shot.

You have no idea what it was like as a kid to drive past Evans City nearly every day, knowing that the dead lived there.

The movie was a huge success, obviously. That’s why we’re talking about it here. And yet, there’s so much that makes it a regional film, as it has local people like horror host Bill Cardille in it. And it feels, well, exactly like living in Western Pennsylvania. We’ve been preparing for the zombie uprising since before people knew there was such a thing.

The movie starts with Barbara (Judith O’Dea) and Johnny (Streiner) in a cemetery, arguing over visiting their parents. Their sibling games soon give way to terror when what looks like a homeless man murders Johnny and sends Barbara racing away, finally discovering what seems to be an abandoned farmhouse. There, she meets Ben* (Duane Jones), a black hero saving a white woman in a time that these things just weren’t done. But the true joy of Night of the Living Dead is that unlike modern elevated horror, this is no message movie. These are just the right people to tell the story.

It’s funny because Romero has often cited Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend as his inspiration, but that author has said that this movie was “kind of cornball.” What does he know?

The movie ups the tension when we discover that a married couple, Harry and Helen Cooper, and their daughter Karen have been hiding in the basement, The young girl has been bitten by a ghoul and Harry is obsessed with barricading himself and his family in the house while Ben wants to escape. In truth, no one is right and everyone pays the price. There is no happy ending in Evans City.

Perhaps the most astounding thing to me about Night of the Living Dead is its public domain status. Its original distributor, the Walter Reade Organization, never put a copyright on the prints. There was one under its original title, Night of the Flesh Eaters, but when the name change occurred, Walter Reade also removed that copyright notice.

That’s why when the VHS era started, you could actually buy this movie, as well as why it shows up in so many other movies and in DVD multipacks. There’s also the unfairly maligned Savini remake that this site needs to get to someday, which I love because Barbara is a more capable heroine and also because I saw it in a theater near Zelienople and when they said the name of the town, people lost their minds.

Roger Ebert’s review of this film has always stuck with me: “The kids in the audience were stunned. There was almost complete silence. The movie had stopped being delightfully scary about halfway through, and had become unexpectedly terrifying. There was a little girl across the aisle from me, maybe nine years old, who was sitting very still in her seat and crying … It’s hard to remember what sort of effect this movie might have had on you when you were six or seven. But try to remember. At that age, kids take the events on the screen seriously, and they identify fiercely with the hero. When the hero is killed, that’s not an unhappy ending but a tragic one: Nobody got out alive. It’s just over, that’s all.”

That’s probably why I like it so much.

*According to an interview on Homepage of the Dead, Karl Hardman and Marilyn Eastman said, “Duane Jones was a very well educated man [and he] simply refused to do the role as it was written. As I recall, I believe that Duane himself upgraded his own dialogue to reflect how he felt the character should present himself.”

This movie was part of the Another Hole in the Head film festival, which provides a unique vehicle for independent cinema. This year’s festival takes place from December 1st – December 18th, 2022. Screenings and performances will take place at the historic Roxie Cinema, 4 Star Theatre and Stage Werks in San Francisco, CA. It will also take place On Demand on Eventive and live on Zoom for those who can not attend the live screenings. You can learn more about how to attend or watch the festival live on their Eventlive site. You can also keep up with all of my AHITH film watches with this Letterboxd list.

SLASHER MONTH: Scream, Baby, Scream (1968)

Also known as Nightmare House, this was directed by Joseph Adler, who mostly directed theater in South Florida as well as the movies Sex and the College GirlRevenge Is My DestinyDoublesSammy Somebody and Convention Girls. The script was written by Larry Cohen, who went onward and upward from here.

Charles Butler is famous of his art which is filled with blood and gore. The truth? He’s working with Dr. Garrison — I mean, they have mutants to do their dirty work — and kidnapping models and using them to take his artwork further, saying wild stuff like “Yesterday’s nightmare is today’s dream and tomorrow’s reality.”

In-between all that artistic murder, we have a hero named Jason (Ross Harris) who treats his girlfriend Janet (Eugenie Wingate) like trash, an acid trip freakout, Janet treats Jason poorly as well and the soundtrack is a mix of psych-out fuzzy rock and freakout jazz. I’ve seen Adler’s direction described as “barely competent” which means that I am now seeking out the rest of his movies.

KINO LORBER BLU RAY RELEASE: Ace High (1968)

I quattro dell’Ave Maria, which means The Four of the Hail Mary, this is the second film in between God Forgives… I Don’t and Boot Hill, this starts with Cat and Hutch (Terence Hill and Bud Spencer) arriving in El Paso and getting mixed up with Cacopoulos (Eli Wallach), who takes $300,000 from them and goes on the run, but the three eventually have to come together.

There’s also Kevin McCarthy from Invasion of the Body Snatchers as a bad guy, as well as a role for Brock Peters from Porgy and Bess and To Kill a Mockingbird.

Director and writer Giuseppe Colizzi is the one that got Hill and Spencer together, which is a genius thing, and Spencer never wanted to be a comedic actor — I mean, the guy was a polymath. An Olympic swimmer, water polo champion, an attorney, an inventor, a pilot and a singer. Fate found him forever cast as a “grumpy strong-arm man with a blessed, naive child’s laughter and a golden heart.”

I can watch Spencer and Terence Hill movies all day, into the next day and into the next week. This is a more serious story for them as they had not yet become as devoted to comedy as movies like They Call Me Trinity would take the team.

You can get this blu ray from Kino Lorber. It has a new 4K scan of the original camera negative, a trailer and commentary by Alex Cox.

2022 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 19: The Green Slime (1968)

19. DRIPS: Blood, sweat, goop, tears, slime, or questionable muck is a must here.

Known in Japan as Ganmā Daisan Gō: Uchū Daisakusen or Gamma 3: The Great Space War, this was directed by Kinji Fukasaku (Battles Without Honor or HumanityBattle RoyaleMessage from Space) and written by American screenwriters Tom Rowe, Charles Sinclair and Bill Finger, the uncredited for decades co-creator of Batman. It was shot with a Japanese crew and has non-Japanese actors Robert Horton, Richard Jaeckel and Luciana Paluzzi in the lead roles. A  co-production between Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Ram Films and Toei, this had MGM paying and providing the script, along with Toei hiring the film crew and getting a location to shoot this.

Commander Jack Rankin (Horton) takes command of space station Gamma 3 with the goal of destroying Flora, an asteroid about to end all life on Earth. Along with Commander Vince Elliot (Jaeckel) and science officer Dr. Hans Halversen (Ted Gunther) to set bombs off on the surface of the asteroid, but they end up bringing back some of that green slime. That slime starts eating any energy it can and turns into one-eyed creatures that love to kill humans.

As we’re getting into the United Nations nature of this movie, it all started in Italy, as years before MGM had contracted Antonio Margheriti to direct four movies about the adventures of space station Gamma One: Wild, Wild Planet, War of the Planets, War Between the Planets and Snow Devils. MGM was so happy with these movies that they released them theatrically. This was intended by producers Walter Manley and Ivan Reiner as the fifth film in the series.

Charles Fox, who wrote the theme song for this film, would go on to co-write “Killing Me Softly With His Song,” the Wonder Woman theme and music for Barbarella. It has Randy Nauert on sitar, Richard Delvy playing drums as well as producing and arranging, Rick Lancelot singing, Rob Edwards on guitar and Paul Tanner playing Theremin.

CANNON MONTH 2: Fando y Lis (1968)

I work in a basement with no windows all day, writing words for people about things that are sometimes beyond me, sitting in meetings with people way more important than me and then I take a break and write all night about all manner of subjects, sneaking in writing on this site when I can, but let me tell you, I’ve been writing so many emails that are so technical and in so many of those meetings that I felt no real will to write. And then I watched this movie — with commentary by director and writer Alejandro Jodorowsky at full blast — and let me tell you, I felt like I could write forever about anything.

Fando (Sergio Klainer) wheels Lis (Diana Mariscal) through the end of the world in search of the mythical city of Tar, a secret city that holds the true nature of enlightenment and eternity. But to get there will be a test. But man, my words are meaningless, because this can only be experienced by you. You will determine what the journey means.

Based on the memories of a play by Fernando Arrabal, the premiere at the 1968 Acapulco Film Festival became a riot, with Jodorowsky leaving the theatre by sneaking outside to a waiting limousine that was soon pelted by rocks; after sell-out showings the entire week in Mexico City, audiences continually broke into fights, leading to the Mexican government banning Fando y Lis from playing cinemas and Jodorowsky almost being deported.

Before all this, Jodorowsky was co-founder of The Panic Movement with Arrabal and Roland Topor, a guerrilla performance art that applied Antonin Artaud’s “heater Of Cruelty theories to change lives through violent theater.

In this film, he’s created a movie that makes us confront the fact that the divine could be true, as well as how insurmountable the climb to arrive there still could be. “To advance a mile, we only have to take a step. If Tar doesn’t exist, we can invent it.”

CANNON MONTH 2: Inga (1968)

After her mother dies, Inga (former ballet dancer Marie Liljedahl, who really hit the trifecta of late sixties sleaze being in this Joe Sarno movie and its sequel The Seduction of IngaMassimo Dallamano’s Dorian Gray and Jess Franco’s Eugenie… The Story of Her Journey into Perversion; she retired from acting by the time she was 21) goes to live with her aunt Greta (Monica Strömmerstedt), who only wants to set her up with a rich older man named Einar (Thomas Ungewitter) and make money off of her. Yet once Inga meets Karl (Casten Lassen) — her aunt’s younger lover — she runs from this rich world of decadence.

In November of 1969, the police busted into the Dakota Theater in Grand Forks, ND and arrested the manager and the projectionist, charging them with running an obscene film. They were found not guilty, which was a major step toward legally showing pornography.

That said — this is quite tame by today’s standards. And it’s filled with so much story and emotional content, it’s hard to compare it to what pornography has become.

There’s a gorgeous scene in the beginning of this as Inga, nude but for a diaphanous nightgown, takes a series of wind-up toys and lets them race across the floor in front of her. Inga continues to return to these toys as her sexuality is awakened and her innocence left behind.

The film is just as much about Greta, a gorgeous yet aging woman clinging to her youth by dating increasingly younger men which comes with it a price: these young men need money to stay around, not love or sex.

Sometimes, the feeling of sin is better than the sin itself.

CANNON MONTH 2: To Ingrid, My Love, Lisa (1968)

Also known as Kvinnolek, this Joe Sarno-directed and written movie is about Lisa Holmberg (Gunbritt Öhrström), who is the latest Sarno leading lady to be gorgeous and at the same time emotionally unsatisfied, no matter how well the rest of her high fashion life may be.

She heads to the country to rest and meets Ingrid (Gunilla Iwansson), a young girl who she convinces that she could escape her normal life and become a model. Of course, she also has her own designs on her young charge. Can Sapphic May and December — more like February and June — romance blossom?

This was brought to the U.S. by Cannon, which seemingly carried everything Sarno was making.

I love that when this played Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Press drama editor Thomas Blakely said “Yes” draws no from one critic: Swedish import is cheap, shoddy, ragged sex romp. They sent the drama editor to a Joe Sarno movie!

Meanwhile, I Am Curious (Yellow) was playing in New Kensington at the Dattola Theater.

CANNON MONTH 2: Scratch Harry (1968)

Referred to as an “amphetamine fantasy,” this film has the Harry of the title, played by Harry Walker Staff, hiding out in his mansion as the mob wants him dead over a drug debt. The only person he has around is not even a person, but a Greek chorus by way of John Lennon-glasses wearing hippie known in the credits as The Shadow (Mio Domani).

His wife Erica (Victoria Wilde) has left him, so he brings home a girl named Christine (Christine Kelly) just in time for his wife to return. He has a hit out on her. She has a hit out on him. The two women soon turn on him. Somehow an underground film that was sold under the name The Dirty Three which makes it seem like it’s going to get sexy and it never really does.

Alex Matter, who co-wrote this and made The Drifter with Stephen Winsten, was a production manager on Cannon’s The Swap and then went on to write the Kenny Rogers movie Six Pack, so yes, life is weird.

CANNON MONTH 2: The Wicked Die Slow (1968)

Of all the early Cannon movies, I would never have expected that a roughie American version of an Italian western would be one of the ones released on blu ray — Ronin Flix — but life is always so surprising.

The Kid (Gary Allen, one of the movie’s writers) and his Mexican sidekick Amarillo (Jeff Kanew, the other one of the movie’s writers) ride through the Wild West of New Jersey, a place where The Kid meets and falls in love with a young girl played by Susannah Campbell. Most of this movie will have her being assaulted by bandits, miscreates and even her father, who kills himself and gets buried by The Kid.

William K. Hennigar directed Mr. Mari’s Girls and Seven Days Too Long, another early Cannon movie. As for Allen, he would go on to act in everything from Annie Hall to Alice, Sweet Alice and The Sentinel while Kanew would direct Revenge of the NerdsGotcha!Tough GuysTroop Beverly Hills and V.I. Warshawski.

This is a more than sleazy regional oddity. I can get behind lots of scummy stuff in a movie, but one that has near-constant sexual assault isn’t really my thing. Your mileage — I hope not — may vary.

CANNON MONTH 2: Deep Inside (1968)

Cannon was making money on Joe Sarno’s films, getting them into theaters as Sarno divided his time making movies in the United States and in Sweden, Germany and Denmark. His early films are stark black and white affairs and life is never easy for anyone within them. Also, the phrase Deep Inside is the greatest adult title ever and would eventually be used along with the names of actresses, such as Sarno’s uncredited X-rated Inside Jennifer Welles and Deep Inside Annie Sprinkle.

Millicent Redmond (Peggy Steffans, the Findlay Flesh trilogy) is a woman who is frigid in bed and therefore gets her pleasure manipulating others, like seeing what kind of trouble she can get Lina (Mary Park) into; plays around with the relationship between her old lesbian roommates Neva (Tia Walter) and Jean (Sheila Britt, The Swap and How They Make It); heats up older lesbian who loves younger women Mavis (Bella Donna, not the Belladonna whose retirement still makes one wistful) and gets Pam (Lara Danielli) involved with the absolute wrong man.

Sarno’s movies have an existential sadness that I absolutely love. I can only imagine what raincoaters felt about these movies, already worried about being in public watching filth, worried about the cops coming in and then the movie they went up against so much just depresses them beyond comprehension.