Dude, Richard Rush has sure made some disparate movies. There’s Thunder Alley, Hells Angels on Wheels and The Stunt Man, then there’s Air America and Color of Night. But he also made this, which reminds me that if I was alive in 1968, I would have died young.
Jenny (Susan Strasberg) is a deaf girl looking for her brother Steve, who left behind a note that said, “Jess Saes: God is alive and well and living in a sugar cube.” That leads her to Haight-Ashbury and the band Mumblin’ Jim, led by Stoney (Jack Nicholson).
Henry Jaglom, who wrote My Lunches With Orson: Conversations Between Henry Jaglom and Orson Welles, is an artist that does the band’s posters. When they go to see him, he’s so messed up on 2,5-Dimethoxy-4-methylamphetamine that he thinks everyone is the living dead and threatens them with a saw. But that’s where Jenny sees some of her brother’s art and learns that he’s become a traveling preacher known as The Seeker. Dave (Dean Stockwell), who left the band, offers to help them find him, but everyone nearly dies in the junkyard when the gang — look for John “Bud” Cardos — attack.
The Seeker shows up and yep, he’s Bruce Dern. He reveals that Jenny was beaten so badly by their mother that she had a stroke and went deaf. He wants to be clean from drugs when they meet. Meanwhile, his sister is caught between Stoney and Dave.
This movie ends as all hippy films must, in death and fire, as Stoney sets his shrine ablaze and Dave saves a tripping Jenny from a car coming right at her by sacrificing himself, remarking that he hopes death will be a good trip as he dies.
Dick Clark produced this and like a true square, he wanted the drug message to show how wrong it was to get hooked. Ah, I’m being mean.
Let’s be nice — the stunts and special effects are by Gary Kent, whose adventures make up the documentary Danger God. The Strawberry Alarm Clock, The Seeds and The Storybook made most of the music in this and the concert scenes are worth watching the entire film. Plus, Garry Marshall plays an undercover cop!
So Sam came up with a “Spaghetti Westerns Week” (running from Sunday, August 16 to Saturday, August 22) . . . and me, with my Klaus Kinski-mania . . . well, it’s time for another “Drive-In Friday” salute to Klaus as we follow up our June “Drive In-Friday” tribute to the five-film oeuvre of Kinski with Werner Herzog.
Klaus made his first jump into the Western-pasta pot in 1965 as Juan Wild, the hunchback member of El Indio’s (Gian Maria Volonte) in Sergio Leone’s For a Few Dollars More. Kinski then appeared in A Bullet for the General (1967; also starring Gian Maria Volonte), and Man, Pride & Vengeance (1967; starring Franco Nero).
As with Kinski’s oeuvre in other genres: I’ve seen some of Kinski’s westerns (the ones featured tonight), but not all of them (and probably never will), but seen most of them courtesy of the long since gone VHS grey market purveyor VSOM: Video Search of Miami, which excelled in making overseas films available in the U.S.
So let’s pop those RC Colas and ride, meho!The riches of the lands South of the Border await us!
Movie 1: The Ruthless Four (1968)
Known in its homeland as Ognuno per sé (aka, Everyone for Himself) — and in West Germany as Das Gold von Sam Cooper (aka, The Gold from Sam Cooper) — Kinski co-stars with Best Supporting Actor Oscar winner Van Heflin (1942’s Johnny Eager), who wowed then little tykes (like myself) roasting under the black & white’s cathode ray glow of Pittsburgh’s WIIC Channel 11 with his roles in the iconic westerns Shane (1953), 3:10 to Yuma (1957), and Gunman’s Walk (1958).
By the turn of the ’60s, Heflin’s star — along with his Gunman’s Walk co-star, Tab Hunter (1988’s Grotesque with Linda Blair) — had fallen, but there was a huge market for American actors in Italian cinema. So Heflin made his first film there, Tempest (1959) and, along with Tab, was billed under Gary Cooper and Rita Hayworth in They Came to Cordura (1959).
The title — and alternate titles — of this one pretty much says it all: Four men embark on a suicide mission for a fortune in gold from a mine owned by Nevada prospector Sam Cooper (Van Heflin). Always the heavy, Kinski is one of the greedy four, Brent the Blonde, a faux-preacher with blood on his hands . . . and one more body means nothing to him.
Up next for Kinski: 1968’s If You Meet Sartana . . . Pray for Your Death. He also worked on the sequel, I Am Sartana, Your Angel of Death (1969). (Sartana was, of course, Gianni Garko, that ‘ol space scoundrel Dirk Laramie from Star Odyssey.)
You can watch The Ruthless Four on You Tube. There’s also a stream on TubiTV.
Movie 2: They Were Called Graveyard, aka Twice a Judas (1968)
Antonio Sabato (Escape from the Bronx and War of the Robots) stars in this film noir-inspired Spaghetti Western as Luke Barrett, a cowboy who regains consciousness with bullet-grazed head wound in the middle of the desert . . . next to a dead man — and a lone rifle with the word “Dingus” carved in its stock. Sabato gathers clues along the way to discover that a hired gunman is out to get him . . . and that he himself was a gun hired to kill Dingus. Yep: You guessed it: Kinski is Dingus and he’s out for blood.
Kinski also worked on Sergio Corbucci’s pasta-western, The Great Silence in the same year.
You can watch They Were Called Graveyard on You Tube.
After working with Antonio Margheriti (1966’s Lightning Bolt) on the western And God Said to Cain (1970), Klaus Kinski received top-billing in this desert noir that Quentin Tarantino* ranked as his 16th personal “Top 20 favorite Spaghetti Westerns.”
Kinksi stars as Dan Hogan, an ex-Ku Klux Klan member leading a gang of bank robbers on the run with $100,000 in gold bars. Hogan’s dark past comes back to haunt him in the form of John Webb (Paolo Casella, who also co-starred with Kinski in the 1970 western, The Beast, and the next film on tonight’s program: 1975’s The Return of Shanghai Joe), a stranger who killed the gang’s guide into Mexico and wants half of their gold for safe passage. And all of their blood. So he really wants all of the gold.
Klaus also starred in the westerns Adios Compañeros, Black Killer, Coffin Full of Dollars, His Name was King, and Vengeance Is a Dish Served Cold that same year. Next up for Kinski: 1972’s A Noose is Waiting for You Trinity.
You can watch Shoot the Living and Pray for the Dying on You Tube.
The film noir-influence of Kinski’s previous pasta-westerns takes a turn into the then hot Kung-Fu genre — courtesy of Japanese-born martial artist Chen Lee (aka, Cheen Lie, playing a Chinese man here). As result of its martial arts plot, this also appeared on several ’70s Drive-In double and triple-bills, alongside more traditional Asian-action imports, as The Dragon Strikes Back (to trick you into thinking you’re seeing a Bruce Lee movie).
In the first film, 1973’s (My Name is) Shanghai Joe (aka, The Fighting Fists Of Shanghai Joe), Kinski was Scalper Jack. In the sequel, Kinski is his usual, sinister self as new character, Pat Barnes: a town boss whose stranglehold over a dusty, desert town runs afoul of Shanghai Joe (actually an uncover U.S. Federal Marshal), who’s assisted by a smooth-talking traveling medicine show man he saved from Barnes’s bully boys.
Ferdinando Baldi is a decent Italian Western director. I enjoyed what he did with Tony Anthony across several movies, including the wild 3D movies Comin’ At Ya! and The Treasure of the Four Crowns. Here, he’s throwing his hat into the Django ring to make another movie that kind of, sort of has something to do with the seminal Western hero.
That said, this is a semi-official, legitimate follow-up, as it was originally intended to star Franco Nero and it was co-written by Django co-writer Franco Rossett.
Django is wounded while his wife is killed as the gold transport that he has been hired to watch over is assaulted by David Barry (Horst Frank, The Cat o’ Nine Tails), a man who he thought was his friend.
Our hero has a great plan by pretending to be dead and becoming the hangman of the town. He saves all of the victims of Barry and organizes them as a gang of dead men, but Garcia, one of the first men he saved, screws it all up when he kills Django’s army of bad guys and goes for the gold himself.
Even when Django is lured to the graveyard where his empty grave is and forced to dig it back up so Barry and his men can kill him, I thought that this was it. Then I forgot what was inside Django’s coffin — that machine gun.
Eagle-eyed B&S About Movies readers will have already spotted George Eastman in this film, his third Django movie that he made within the first two years of his acting career.
Following the success of the Bud Spencer and Terence Hill films in the mid 70’s, this was re-released with a comedic soundtrack. And in France, it was redubbed as a Trinity film. I have no idea how they made this funny, because it’s a pretty dark film.
If you listen to the soundtrack and wonder, “Where have I heard this before?” that’s because the song “Last Man Standing” was sampled by Danger Mouse for the Gnarls Barkley song “Crazy.”
Under the working titles Jayne Mansfield Reports, Mansfield Reports Europe and Mansfield ByNight, this mondo was shot from 1964 to 1967 as Mansfield toured Europe. It has to be a mondo, because the movie really is all over the place, with the star meeting Italian roadside prostitutes, running from the paparazzi and attending the Cannes Film Festival, where she pretty much runs toward the paparazzi.
Complicating matters was that Mansfield died in a car accident in June 1967.
Randall did what you’d expect. He hired Carolyn De Fonseca, the actress who often dubbed Mansfield in European movies like Primitive Love and Dog Eat Dog. So yeah. That’s not even Jayne talking in a movie that’s supposedly all about her deepest and darkest thoughts.
That’s why I write about movies. I would have never known otherwise that one person was the sound that I heard in so many movies that I count amongst my favorites, much less a mondo all about Jayne Mansfield.
With breathy narration, Mansfield visits nudist colonies, strip clubs, a gay bar and a massage parlor because this was the mid-60’s and people were losing their minds over the sexual revolution. She also judges a transvestite beauty pageant, meets the topless girl band The Ladybirds and does the Twist to a song by Rocky Roberts & The Airedales.
You also get shots of Mansfield in Playboy — the equivalent of someone filming a magazine — as well as nude scenes from her in Promises! Promises!and moments with her husband Mickey Hargitay in the movies Primitive Love and The Loves of Hercules.
With Mansfield dying before the movie could be complete, you just knew that news footage of her car accident scene would show up in this. There’s also a tour of her home, the Pink Palace, by Hargitay. He was a plumber and carpenter before becoming a star, so he made her the heart-shaped swimming pool at the center of the all-pink landmark.
In the 1980 TV movie, The Jayne Mansfield Story, Arnold Schwarzenegger played Hargitay, who pretty much demystified and popularized bodybuilding for young athletes. He and Mansfield’s daughter Mariska can be seen pretty much 24 hours a day now on the Law and Order TV shows.
One of the directors of this movie, Joel Holt, is also the narrator in Olga’s House of Shame and Olga’s Girls. Yes, that’s the kind of movie you’re about to revel in. Enjoy it. Wade in it. Experience it.
Roger Corman loved making deals to get the movies on the screens.
In a deal similar to the one Corman made with Ron Howard years later for Grand Theft Auto, Corman agreed that if John Ireland starred in The Fast and the Furious (1954), the then down-and-out actor could direct the picture. So when Corman decided set designer Daniel Heller (for all of Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe features, especially 1960’s House of Usher and 1961’s The Pit and the Pendulum) was ready for another picture, another deal was struck.
By that point, Heller had a solid relationship with Corman and already directed his first film, the H.P. Lovecraft adaptation Die, Monster, Die!(1965) and the biker flick Devil’s Angels (1967; with John Cassavetes). When Corman conceived the idea of Heller directing a racing flick centered around the European Grand Prix circuit, Heller pulled out his ace-in-the-hole: If Corman would finance Paddy (1970), Heller’s pet project adaptation of Irishman Lee Dunne’s raunchy sex-comedy Good-bye to the Hill, he’d undertake — for a Corman A.I.P production — the ambitious shoot that shot across six countries in less than six weeks.
That’s what’s awesome about Corman: he always took care of those who were loyal and dependable workers.
Then Heller returned the favor to (loves!) Mimsy Farmer.
Farmer transitioned from a career of bit roles on ’60s TV series into the forgotten drive-in fodder that was Hot Rods to Hell (1967; for MGM), Riot on Sunset Strip (1967; for A.I.P), and the aforementioned Devil’s Angels. With her career going nowhere fast, she soon took a job in a Canadian hospital. Then Heller gave her a call to star in The Wild Racers (alongside a young Talia Shire, aka then Coppola, sister of Francis Ford, in her feature film debut; she was another Corman crew member given a shot to live her dream). Farmer jumped at the chance to go to Europe for free and be able to visit her brother in London.
The Wild Racers ended up re-ignited her flagging career — now solely based in Europe — with respected directors Barbet Schroder (best known in the states for the later Barfly and Single White Female) casting her in the drug-drama More (1969) and Eriprando Visconti (of the oft ripped off, 1976 kidnap drama La orca) casting her in his Russian war drama Strogoff (1970). Readers of the B&S About Movies variety infatuated with all things giallo came to know Farmer for her work in Argento’s Four Files on Grey Velvet, along with The Perfume of the Lady in Black and Autopsy.
Yep. There’s nothing like the Corman touch to get careers rolling.
Sadly, the same can’t be said for Fabian (Forte) who was never able to parlay his eleven-song run of Billboard Top 100 hits into a career that rose to the Euro-respect of Mimsy Farmer — or Talia Shire, who made it to the Golden Globes and the Oscars as result of her work in 1976’s Rocky.
True, Fabian was under contract with 20th Century Fox, but he never became “a star,” thanks to the quickly forgotten drek he was cast in, like Hound Dog Man (1959) — which was a virtual rewrite of Fox’s Elvis vehicle, Love Me Tender (1956). And there’s no argument that High Time and North to Alaska are minor entries in the Bing Crosby and John Wayne cannons (even my dad, a huge Duke fan, said North to Alaska, sucked). Then Fabian was with Paramount — to co-star with another teen idol, Tommy Sands — in more junk, this time, it was Love in a Goldfish Bowl (1961). Then with Columbia, it was the forgotten beach drama Ride the Wild Surf (1964).
It wasn’t Fabian’s fault. He’s an affable, naturally-skilled actor. It’s that the studios kept casting him in junk. Yeah, sure Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation (1962) with Jimmy Stewart and The Longest Day (1962) with John Wayne and Henry Fonda were well-made box-office hits — but who remembers those films as “classics” all these years later?
By that point, Fabian was down to picking up the occasional guest-star roles in ’60s TV series. Then Roger Corman came-a-callin’ and cast Fabian in his first film for A.I.P., which was the stock car racing drama Fireball 500 (1966) with Corman’s “Beach Party” stars Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello; then they hit the stock car track a second time in Thunder Alley (1967), and wrapped-up their pre-Fast and the Furious “trilogy” with The Wild Racers.
When Fabian’s seven-film contract with A.I.P. ended — and as with Paul Newman and Steve McQueen (and later, Tom Cruise and Paul Walker) before him — working on Corman’s flicks ignited his love of racing — which ended with a 1978 accident during a Mojave Desert stock car race. After that, critics may say that Fabian floundered, but we love him in Soul Hustler (1976), the trashy-insane Disco Fever, and the cheap-but-loveable slasher Kiss Daddy Goodbye (1981).
I know. I know. Another review where it’s off-the-rails with trivia — and little plot. But seriously: when did any of these forgotten drive-in potboilers have much of a plot in the first place — an wasn’t a ripped from another film in the second place?
Fabian is Jo Jo Quillico, an American stock car racer who’s career is on the skids (sorry) after causing a fatal accident. So he flees to Europe. There — and in a plot swiped from just about every film noir-cum-mobster movie about a pug boxer — Jo Jo is hired by a racing tycoon to be “take a dive” driver, so as to make the team’s more experienced driver look good. But Jo Jo’s ambitions get the best of him and he proves he’s a better driver that the guy he’s hired to take dives for. (Again: name a boxing movie.) Then, as Sam, B&S Movies’ editor-in-chief would say: “romance ensues amid the asphalt and rubber.”
Joe Dante and Quentin Tarantino have said The Wild Racers is an avante-garde, Antonioni-esque art film with little dialog, lots of voice overs, and a quick series of shots that last no more than twenty seconds. Truth be told, for an A.I.P. flick, this Fabian-starrer is a well-shot film (the best of his three Corman race romps), considering it was shot guerilla-style without permits (thus Corman and Heller stole their own film-stock racing footage, which lends to its arty, documentary vibe). In the end, these fast and furious proceedings hold their own against the bigger studio race car flicks helmed by James Caan (Red Line 7000), James Garner (Grand Prix; 1966), Steve McQueen (1971; Le Mans), and Paul Newman (Winning; 1970). And it’s a hell of lot better than those process-shot stinkers Viva Las Vegas (1964), Spinout (1966), and Speedway (1968) starring Elvis as a singing race car driver.
If Fabian had been given an actual shot to be in an Michelangelo Antonioni film: Could you see Fabian in Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point (1970) or The Passenger (1975)? I can. It’s like the studios used Fabian like a pug actor — to take dives — to make other actors look good.
And he did makes other actors look good because Fabian was a damn good actor himself.
The Mill Creek Savage Cinema set features an image from this film’s poster on its cover. Seeing as how this was also known as Biker Babes, it’s probably the most suggestive — and therefore best possible selling — film to feature.
The Hellcats bury Big Daddy, who was killed by their mob contact Mr. Adrian (Robert F. Slatzer, who directed this as well as Bigfoot) when he learned that the crook was also a snitch for Detective Dave Chapman. All of these relationships are symbolized in the start of the film — the biker gang is putting their boss in the ground while the cops and the crooks watch from a distance.
Adrian decides to kill off Chapman when he’s on a date with his fiancee Linda (Dee Duffy, who was a Slaygirl and Miss June in the Matt Helm movies The Ambushers and Murderer’s Row). Dave’s brother Monte (Ross Hagen, who was also in The Sidehackers) comes back from the war to learn about what happened. He and Linda decide to act like a biker couple and get revenge.
He does so by getting drawn and quartered longer than the leader of the gang, Snake (Sonny West, a member of Elvis’ Memphis Mafia). This earns him the right to have sex with Sheila (one and done actress Sharyn Kinzie) and brings our protagonists into the gang’s scam to bring back drugs from Mexico.
Tom Hanson, who directed The Zodiac Killer, shows up here as Mongoose. Gus Trikonis, who made Nashville Woman, The Evil, She’s Dressed to Killand more, is Scorpio. Tony Lorea, who plays Six-Pack and also acted in Supercock, went to to be the assistant director of Sweet Sixteen, The Gloveand Ladies Night. Was this entire gang made up of exploitation movie directors? Where’s Bud Cardos?
You can either watch this as part of the Savage Cinema set or check it out on Daily Motion.
Jack Smight directed Rod Steiger in this film and in the incredibly dark The Illustrated Man, a movie that he bought the rights to film from Ray Bradbury. He’d also direct Airport 1975and Damnation Alley.
George Segal, who is the hero of this film, told the Chicago Tribune, “It’s Steiger’s film. He runs around doing all sorts of different roles and I just stop by and watch him.”
He isn’t wrong.
Christopher Gill (Steiger) is obsessed with his late mother, a theater actress whose shadow still weighs on him long after her death. He hates her so much that he keeps killing versions of her again and again, using acting to win over the elder ladies before snuffing their lives out and leaving lipstick all over their faces.
Detective Morris Brummell (Segal) is the cop trying to find the killer, but he’s beaten up by his mother constantly and falling for Lee Remick. Who can blame him?
This was originally a William Goldman novel. Plenty of films have been, including Magic, The Princess Bride and Heat. He also wrote the screenplays for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Stepford Wives, Misery, Dreamcatcher and The General’s Daughter.
This movie was playing in Vallejo, California in April 1969. That’s when the Zodiac Killer was murdering his initial victims. It’s believed that the Zodiac loved movies and that he may have been influenced by the way that the killer in this movie taunted the cops.
This is one of Becca’s favorite movies, which is another of the many, many reasons why I love her so much.
Decades before Paris Is Burning and RuPaul’s Drag Race helped normalize drag culture, this film about the 1967 Miss All-America Camp Beauty Pageant was there. For many, this was their introduction to the world of competitive drag.
Now, Kino Lorber has re-released this film to blu ray after a 2019 theater bow.
Beyond the celebrity judges like Andy Warhol, Larry Rivers, and Terry Southern., this film takes you behind the curtain to show what it takes to become part of this world. There’s also an infamous speech by Crystal LaBeija, who would go on to be part of the aforementioned Paris Is Burning.
The winner of the contest — which was disputed at the end of the movie — was Rachel Harlow, who unsuccessfully tried out for the role of Myra Breckinridge. You can see her screen test on the DVD of that film. Trust me. She was better off not being in it.
Kino Lorber has released an astounding complete version of this movie, which has outtakes and trailers, as well as audio commentary by artist and producer Zackary Drucker and journalist and author Diana Tourjée. There are also four short films included: TheQueen: After Party Outtakes, Flawless Sabrina: Icon/Muse, Irma Vep: The Last Breath and Queens at Heart. There’s even a Q&A with Flawless Sabrina and Zackary Drucker.
You can get this movie directly from Kino Lorber, who were kind enough to send a copy our way.
She employs her girls at Seguros Internacionales de Proteccion, an insurance company that serves only the most powerful. If people screw them over or even decide to stop using their services, she sends the girls out to murder them and then uses her funeral home to hide the evidence.
That’s a great plan until private detective Arsenio Junker Tres Alas starts snooping around after dating Adriana. And now things are further murked up by the fact that Aunt Ermentrudis has ordered the death of rock star Ringo Peniche, who is Delila’s boyfriend!
A night in the country for three women — and one man — from wildly different social spheres and levels of monetary respect turns dark and deadly in this 1968 film from Carlos Enrique Taboada, who wrote and directed so many of the greatest classics in Mexican horror. I’ll give you Poison for the Fairies, Even the Wind Is Afraid and Darker Than Night as examples.
Angela (Christa Linder, The Night of 1000 Cats) is young, gorgeous, rich and happily married. As she speeds toward her opulent home, she doesn’t realize that Monica (Ana Luise Peluffo, Intrepidos Punks) is drunkenly passed out in the back seat. She’s well-off as well, but bitter and hurt by life. Then there’s the young girl from the wrong side of the tracks, Raquel (Norma Lazareno, Even the Wind Is Afraid, The Book of Stone).
This evening would be tense between these women if it wasn’t for another wrinkle: a homeless man (Rodolfo de Anda, who directed El Macho Bionico) who is ready to rail against humanity in the form of these three different women, as he is trapped outside as a very real storm begins to rage.
This is a movie unafraid to tick off the boxes of exploitation, starting with two partygoers who arrive in full Nazi regalia and including Peluffo getting nude, as she was one of the first Mexican actresses to do so in mainstream films.
I’d compare this film to the Umberto Lenzi-directed Carroll Baker films. It has that same slow burn that I love so much and the end of this movie feels like the end of the world — as the rest of the world moves on — for those who survive.